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Mental health nurse struck off over patient relationship

  • 5 Comments

A mental health nurse who started a sexual relationship with a patient in her care has been struck off after a tribunal found her behaviour amounted to misconduct.

Deborah Boulton’s actions fell “seriously short of the conduct and standards expected of a nurse”, a tribunal ruled, saying her ability to practice is impaired by reason of her misconduct.

The band 6 nurse was said to have met the man, known as Patient A, at the Sutherland Centre, for people with poor mental health, in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, in early 2009.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing was told Boulton gave the patient, who had previously been treated in hospital for an alleged overdose of diazepam and alcohol issues, her mobile number and texted him, telling him “I miss you” and “I love you”.

During their relationship the pair had sex around five times: once in a hotel, once in his mother’s house and approximately three times in Boulton’s house.

The patient claimed when he tried to finish the relationship Boulton bombarded him with calls and texts until he destroyed his mobile phone to avoid contact from her.

The panel heard Boulton went on to take sick leave leading to her case load being re-allocated, which eventually resulted in claims of their relationship emerging.

The allegations came to light when Patient A attended a counselling session in August, where he suggested to a counsellor that he had suffered a relapse because of the relationship, the hearing was told.

Boulton was not present and not represented at the hearing in central London last week, but had denied the allegations.

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Here's something the NMC really needs to get a grip on and that is to ask the question why so many mental health nurses are struck off because of relationships that are allowed to develop? I know of a handful of cases where these sort of things have happened between service users and carers (not all were nurses). Where is the active support beforehand for professionals who are personally affected by the trauma suffered by service users. I am certain that people do not get to senior positions if they are sexual predators but I can believe that people can make errors in judgement as a result of their own vulnerabilities. These people are generally operating without a safety net and once they are embroiled in a relationship they are on borrowed time because of the zero tolerance approach taken by the NMC and the naturally poor coping mechanisms (and likely manipulative skills and possible sociopathic values) of some service users.

    Mental Health nurses may not work under the same physical work pressures as colleagues in other disciplines but the psychological pressure is immense and there are very few employers with active strategies to prevent lapses in judgement like this. People talk about the Criminal Justice system being weighted against the victim, in the case above the opposite is true when often the only crime committed is to have succumbed to a human vulnerability.

    To be clear I completely agree that sexual predators should be identified and removed from the register but feel that adequate safeguards should be in place to stop such behaviour from becoming an issue in the first place and for the NMC to reconsider its position of not acknowledging the vulnerability of the practitioner with the same emphasis as that they accord to the service user.

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  • The post above touches on a very valid point. In mental health you can be exposed to some highly emotional stories, where empathy is a strong requirement. That is not to say that in other settings, these factors don't exist, but the truth is, the damage that human beings do to each other emotionally is something faced by mental health workers every day.

    I don't try to justify anyone stepping over that professional boundary, it is clearly unacceptable, but the point made above is so valid - where is the support mechanisms for staff exposed to such high emotion on a daily basis that is not about nature and phsyical illness but about human nature. When you connect with another human being on this level, it is very easy for emotions and boundaries to become blurred, especially when the individual who is in the professional role is perhaps vulnerable themselves. It's not right and it's not healthy but it happens.

    Clinical supervision used to be prevalent to try and help with this, but I don't know how much this still happens, especially with the current staffing and economic pressures we are all exposed to. Things like this are often seen as non-essential and are the first things to go when something has to.

    It's all very sad for both the nurse involved in this case and for the patient.

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  • i am sorry to say, this is not the 1st time we are hearing this type of misconduct who is to be blamed the involved nurses or the respective PCT`s they have been working for?


    we have just been threatened with high retention fees because NMC need more money to deal with cases like this increasing their workload.

    Action needs to be taken

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  • The third post makes a very good point. The NMC spends a lot of money on sorting out these sort of cases so where is the forethought to invest in a supportive and preventative strategy? The enhanced cost savings of not having to pursue so many misconduct hearings plus the emotional saving against both registrant and service user in these situations is immeasurable.

    For anyone who scoffs at this, just remember there are second checks at medicine rounds and with the CD register - is it because people's honesty is in question or is it to stop mistakes from being made and harm being caused?

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  • l think mental health nurses are emotionally vulnerable, but with the right training and CPD these could be averted. Unfortunately the mental health care these days are all about paper work, ticking boxes to meet registration and regulation requirement. Genuine Training and CPD in most places are mere routine exercise, to event attendance, no substance.
    Interventions are about watching your back, defending every word that came from your mouth, not even good humor is accepted without ticking boxes (risk assessment). I think mental health Nursing training should include intensively Law.
    However non therapeutic relationships must not go un-punished. NMC is not fit to practice, they exhibit negligence in discharge of their duties at times, causing the Nurses money. The waste must be stopped, and NMC staff should also face fitness to practice in case of their negligence.

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