A nurse who admitted having an illicit affair with an anorexic patient has been struck off.
Patricia McQueen met up with the married woman at both their homes, took a bath in her presence and asked to be called ‘mum’ after meeting her at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, south London.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council ruled the 47-year-old’s actions had breached a ‘fundamental tenet of the nursing profession’ and there was no option but to throw her out the profession.
During the hearing in central London the NMC heard Patient A, a mother-of-two, had regularly been admitted to the eating disorders unit at the hospital where McQueen worked.
She had been consulting a psychologist about sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
During her earlier stays at the unit McQueen had been assigned to Patient A as her ‘primary nurse’.
The relationship lasted from August 2007 to March the following year, when she was an inpatient but was allowed to leave on certain days.
During the hearing the panel had heard that in a series of text messages sent by McQueen in February 2008, she repeatedly wrote ‘love you’ and signed off with a string of kisses.
In one message sent to Patient A on February 16, she wrote: ‘Are you saying that you feel nothing?’
The hearing was told that on February 20, Patient A texted McQueen asking to be left alone.
The nurse replied that day at 9.43am, saying simply: ‘OK. x’
An investigation was launched after Patient A told a nursing manager she felt that McQueen had ‘abused her trust’ was ‘stalking’ her.
McQueen, who had been a registered psychiatric nurse for four years, was sacked in June 2008 following an internal disciplinary inquiry by the south London and Maudsley NHS Trust.
NHS investigator Lynn St Louis told the hearing she felt ‘sick and betrayed’ by McQueen’s actions.
She said: ‘It was supposed to be a professional relationship and it turned into something else.’
Ms St Louis, who said Patient A was ‘shaking’ and ‘appeared to be frightened’ when telling her of the relationship, recounted an account of a visit to McQueen’s home.
She said: ‘On one occasion Ms McQueen had asked her to ‘scrub her back’ whilst she was in the bath.
‘She had pulled out her breast and said she was still able to produce breast milk, and told the patient to call her ‘mum’.’
‘She told me that McQueen had abused her trust and she felt she was being stalked,’ she said.
Neither Patient A nor McQueen, from Bromley, are attended the central London misconduct hearing.
Allegations of a lesbian sexual relationship between the pair were dropped because the woman, known as Patient A, was too unwell to assist with the investigation.
In a letter to the NMC, McQueen said she mostly lived overseas since late 2008, adding: ‘No matter what I say, it will make no difference to my case.’
She said: ‘As far as I’m concerned, I was struck off the nursing register from the moment I was dismissed in June 2008.
‘I am prepared to face the consequences of never working as a nurse again.’
McQueen admitted conducting an inappropriate relationship with Patient A, in which the pair visited each other at home and exchanged text messages, and she visited the woman at the Priory.
Panel chair Jillian Alderwick said: ‘The panel concludes that where patients of this vulnerability are being nursed, any departure on the basis of a personal friendship clearly falls outside the boundary of a professional relationship.
‘The inappropriate relationship against this background with a very vulnerable patient is an extremely serious departure from the relevant standards and breaches a fundamental tenet of the nursing profession.
‘This breach caused harm which cannot be quantified to an already fragile and very ill patient.
‘The panel have decided that a striking off order is necessary because the misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with being a registrant.’