Carstairs nurse was besotted with violent schizophrenic

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A NURSE at Carstairs hospital for the criminally insane was besotted with a dangerous and violent patient, it emerged today (Mon).

Stephanie Anne Drysdale sent the patient letters and cards which included the words “I need and want you”.

The 35-year-old is now facing disciplinary proceedings after the messages were discovered in the unnamed man’s bedroom.

Drysdale, from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, was charged with failing to maintain professional boundaries in her relationship with the patient.

But she failed to turn up at a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s conduct and competence committee  today in Edinbugh, and was not represented.

Friendship

Drysdale, had worked at Carstairs – home to some of Scotland’s most notorious killers – for six years when her correspondence was discovered.

They also included a an unsigned card entitled “Let’s never let go of our friendship”.

Another card had been signed by Drysdale under the name Courtney and said “with love”.

The subject of her affection was a patient who was admitted to the hospital in 2007 from prison and was deemed to have dangerous and violent tendencies.

To protect his anonymity the patient cannot be identified.

Sandra Steele, ward manager at the time of the incident in December 2007, said other nurses had reported their concerns about how close the pair had been getting between August and November that year.

Concerns

She said: “Stuart Lammie, one of the other senior nurses, came to me after some of the other staff members reported to him that they were concerned about how much time Ms Drysdale was spending with the patient.

“They were also concerned because she had altered her appearance since he had arrived at the hospital.

“I had a meeting with Ms Drysdale shortly after and asked if she was worried or stressed about anything and we discussed the type of work she was doing with him.

She added: “From the conversation I had with her there was nothing that led me to believe anything was going on, she seemed to be doing an excellent job with him as I know he was seen as being quite difficult to deal with sometimes, so I left it there.”

But the following month, on 19 December, Mrs Steele received a phone call from Jackie Adam, who was in charge of the ward, to notify her that some “worrying materials” had been found in the patient’s room, and that they could be linked to Ms Drysdale.

Mrs Steele said: “I went into work straight away and the letters had been laid out on my desk.

“I believed the handwriting to be that of Ms Drysdale, as she has very distinctive handwriting.

“I also checked the mail log on the date of one of the cards which was signed by someone called Courtney and it had been signed in by Ms Drysdale.”

‘Empathetic’

She added: “When I checked the rota for that day I saw that Ms Drysdale had been on a backshift so she would have started work at 1.30pm, and the mail is always done and logged in the morning, never on a backshift.”

Joanna Dirmikis, presenting the case to the NMC committee, said Ms Drysdale had claimed she was “empathetic” to the patient’s circumstances and that she was trying to build up his confidence with the letters.

She said it had been reported to her that Ms Drysdale would not be coming to hearing and no longer wished to practice as a nurse.

The patient was discharged from Carstairs in May 2008.

The incident took place in the Lomond Ward, also known as the admissions ward, where patients stay for an average of six months before a decision is made to either release them or move them properly into the hospital.

Discovery

It was also noted that there was no evident of inappropriate physical contact between the pair.

The letters were found by staff nurse Helen Hood, who immediately reported them to Jackie Adam.

The patient himself had invited Ms Hood in to look at all of his cards – which was when she came across the “inappropriate material”.

An investigation followed, headed by Carolin Walker, who carried out two interviews with Drysdale and one with the patient.

She told the committee: “The first interview took place on 14 January and Ms Drysdale admitted writing one letter, which was signed ‘your rock’.

“She was very matter-of-fact and denied sending any of the cards, including the one from ‘Courtney’.”

A section of the letter was read out the hearing, which said: “So you will know that I need and want you”, and another which said: “I thank you for trusting in me and making me feel that I am needed. I only hope I have done the same for you”.

Mrs Walker said she asked Mrs Drysdale, who has a psychology degree, if she thought this letter was inappropriate, to which she replied “no”.

No knowledge

Mrs Walker went on to interview the patient, who told her “Courtney” was a friend from Hamilton, and that the cards had been given to him by his mother, who acted as a go-between for the pair.

But when social workers contacted his mother she denied any knowledge of a ‘Courtney’.

The patient was a diagnosed schizophrenic, who had a secondary diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.

He was described as being “challenging to work with” and had assaulted staff before. He also suffered from hallucinations.

In the second interview with Ms Drysdale two days later she finally came clean and admitted writing the cards and delivering them herself to the patient.

Mrs Walker said: “She admitted in hindsight that it was inappropriate and she seemed to show a lot of remorse and guilt.

“We actually called for someone to support her after the meeting because we were worried about just how upset she was.

“She had sent one of the cards before she went on a week or two’s leave and explained that she felt enormous responsibility to the patient, who she believed would not behave himself if she were not there.

“She worried about issues of him self-harming.

“She worried that he would feel as though she was abandoning him when she had days off, so did it as a way of being there when she wasn’t.

“When I asked her why she had used the name ‘Courtney’, she said they just both understood and it was a name they had decided to use and the patient would know it was from her.

“She said she lied because she didn’t want to get anyone into trouble, herself or the patient.”

Carstairs is a high security hospital which treats patients with complex and challenging mental illnesses and patients can stay there anywhere between months and years.

The patient was moved to the Kelvin Ward around Christmas time in 2007, and the investigation took place shortly after.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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