Nurse struck off over three-year relationship with vulnerable patient

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The NMC dismissed Ms. Garnett in 2008 after discovering her unprofessional behaviour

A MENTAL health nurse who had a three-year relationship with a vulnerable patient he met in hospital has been struck off.

Raymond Costigane was charged with having a sexual relationship with the woman, but a nursing watchdog panel accepted his claims that it was not sexual.

The nurse stayed over in a spare room at her house and went on trips to the cinema and the countryside with her in the ‘close’ three-year relationship, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing was told.

The woman, who was initially admitted for drug detoxification, was still an outpatient in the hospital where he worked at the time.

The relationship took place between December 2006 and December 2009, after she was discharged from the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospital around July 2006.

 

Cinema 

The pair also met for coffee and exchanged text messages after the woman, named only as Patient A, was discharged.

Mr Costigane admitted the majority of the three charges against him, including that he had a relationship with the woman, but denied it was sexual.

The NMC panel told him: “You also accepted you were in a personal relationship with Patient A which involved meeting up with her on a regular basis, staying over night at her house in a spare-room, going to the cinema, and taking trips to the countryside.

“You also stated that you had socialised with her extended family. You described the relationship as ‘close’, others described it as ‘significant’.”

Mr Costigane claimed he woman did not initially tell him she was an outpatient at the hospital.

The panel continued: “You gave evidence that Patient A did not tell you for a considerable period of time that she was receiving outpatient treatment at the Hospital following her discharge from the Ward.

“Given that you accept the personal relationship was a ‘close’ one, the panel did not find it credible that she would not have disclosed that information to you, particularly since the original connection between you was that she was a patient on the Ward where you worked.”

 

Vulnerable

The NMC case presenter Salim Hafejee (corr) said Mr Costigane breached the rules around forming relationships with patients.

Mr Hafejee said: “It should be noted Patient A had a history of treatment for depression and anxiety going back to 1988, including hospital admissions.

“It points strongly to Patient A being a vulnerable patient.”

He continued: “During her time in treatment Mr Costigane worked on the same ward.”

The woman then became “attracted” to him and he provided care to her on the ward, he said.

She was discharged in June 2006 but continued as an outpatient at the hospital, he said.

He said: “Following her discharge, they both met, admittedly by chance, and developed a friendship and a relationship which continued until 2009.”

 

Relationship

 He said there was “strong circumstantial evidence that the relationship was sexual.”

Dr Alistair Kinniburgh, a consultant psychiatrist who carried out consultations with the woman, said she had mentioned having trouble with her partner, who was a psychiatric nurse.

But he did not ask her if they were in a sexual relationship and thought the fact her partner was a psychiatric nurse was “reasonable”, given the number of psychiatric nurses.

Dr Kinniburgh said: “My impression was of a male/ female relationship rather than a more platonic relationship.”

Mr Costigane said he had spoken to his line manager about the relationship, but giving evidence before the panel, the senior charge nurse denied this.

Announcing its decision to strike Mr Costigane off, the panel told him: “You also failed to appreciate the potential risk caused by your relationship to Patient A’s emotional wellbeing.

“The panel was of the view that the public would not expect a Mental Health Nurse to embark on a long term relationship with a mental health patient who had been a patient on their ward and who continued to be an outpatient at the same hospital.”

Mr Costigane’s representative Catriona Watt invited the panel to see the relationship as an isolated error of judgement his 22-year-long “unblemished” career.

Ms Watt initially moved to have the hearing held entirely in private due to concerns over patient confidentiality.

But she later changed this request to hearing one witnesses’ evidence in private, which was in turn refused by the panel.

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