A NURSE who had sex with a former psychiatric patient he added as a friend on Facebook has been struck off.
Community psychiatric nurse David William Swankie, who worked at St Andrews Memorial Hospital in Fife, added four patients as friends on the social networking site.
He also failed to see vulnerable patients who were referred to him, despite in some cases being told by the patient’s GP they needed help soon.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said Mr Swankie “has abused his professional position for his own ends”.
He admitted allegations relating to 29 patients, many of which related to failing to see patients on time and failing to keep adequate records.
Colleagues first flagged up Mr Swankie’s behaviour at the hospital, which has since closed, after he attended work smelling of alcohol.
The NMC panel said: “The evidence before the panel suggests that for a substantial amount of time in 2009 and 2010 Mr Swankie’s difficulties in his personal life affected the standard of his practice such that he failed in the requirements of his role.”
It continued: “Members of the CPN [community psychiatric nurse] team raised concerns in late 2009 regarding Mr Swankie smelling of alcohol.
“A student nurse reported the same concern in January 2010.”
In July 2010 another psychiatric nurse informed colleagues at NHS Fife that Mr Swankie was in a relationship with a patient.
The panel’s report said: “[a colleague] questioned Mr Swankie about the allegation at a meeting on 7 July 2010 and he admitted that he and Patient D were in a current relationship.
“A disciplinary investigation was conducted by Ms Duthie. Mr Swankie stated in an investigatory meeting on 30 July 2010 that he approached Patient D while at work and asked her to become his ‘friend’ on Facebook.
“He said that he believed Patient D had been discharged from the CPN service two weeks before their relationship commenced, though he had not verified this with Patient D’s [nurse].”
Mr Swankie had seen the patient some years previously, but at the time they started their relationship Patient D had only been discharged from another nurse in his team’s care for two weeks.
The report continued: “In the course of the investigation it also came to light that Mr Swankie had become ‘friends’ on Facebook with three other female service users, Patients A, B and C.
“Mr Swankie had been the allocated [nurse] for all three women.
“Many of the patients on Mr Swankie’s caseload were very vulnerable and required a high level of support in order to manage conditions such as acute anxiety, depression and substance misuse.”
The panel said: “In addition, regardless of the fact that Patient D had been discharged, the risk of relapse was high.”
It was also found 22 of Mr Swankie’s clients had waited more than 18 weeks to see him.
One patient who had taken an overdose had to wait almost 12 weeks to see him despite a letter from her GP requesting an urgent appointment.
Through forming inappropriate relationships and failing to respond to urgent requests for support, the nurse had “put vulnerable patients at risk of unwarranted harm”, the panel said.
Announcing its decision to strike off Mr Swankie, the panel, held in London and chaired by Najrul Khasru, said “not only did Mr Swankie abuse his position of trust for his own ends, but that abuse was of a high level of seriousness.”
Mr Swankie was dismissed by NHS Fife after a disciplinary eharing in 2010.