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Mental health nurse ‘preyed on’ prisoner during therapy sessions

HM Prison Bullingdon in Oxfordshire
Nirali Patel admitted inappropriately touching the prisoner during weekly one-to-one meetings at HM Prison Bullingdon in Oxfordshire

A senior mental health nurse “preyed on” a prisoner during one-to-one meetings with him, a disciplinary heard.

Nirali Patel admitted inappropriately touching the prisoner during sessions before they embarked on a sexual relationship on his release.

The nurse admitted 11 misconduct charges at a disciplinary hearing where she was deemed a risk to the health, safety, and wellbeing of the public. She has now been struck off.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council was told Mrs Patel worked at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire.

The inmate, referred to in documents as Patient A, told the panel that he had been “preyed on” by her and “seduced” in their weekly sessions.

During these meetings, between May and December 2021, he said Mrs Patel would “flirt, stroke his arms, and play with his hands”.

He was released in December 2021 but the nurse gave him her personal email address and the pair subsequently “met up on several occasions” and “engaged in a sexual relationship”.

Over the course of their relationship, which ended around March 2022, Mrs Patel transferred the former prisoner £175 and sent him a number of emails declaring her love for him and a wish to divorce her husband.

In one email she said she couldn’t “stop thinking about” him and in another wrote, “I do love you and miss you”.

‘She seduced me’

Evidence also came to light that the nurse had been seeing Patient A when he was in prison, “for no clinical reason” and for twice as long as the maximum weekly expectation for service users.

When asked how the relationship had come about, the man said: “It is a long story. It turned into a romantic relationship where she seduced me by touching and verbal comments, she would stroke my arms and legs”.

In a statement, the nurse said she had simply “let her guard down” but insisted the pair were “emotionally attached to one another”.

She said: “I will never engage in a relationship, personal or sexual with another service user again. This experience has shown me how it has affected my profession, health, dignity and life as a whole.”

The NMC’s misconduct panel accepted that the nurse was “genuinely remorseful” for her conduct but described Mrs Patel as a “risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of the public”.

In imposing a striking off order, Rachel Cook, the panel’s chairman, said: “Mrs Patel abused her position as a nurse caring for Patient A who was vulnerable.

“She transgressed professional boundaries and actual harm resulted. Her actions have raised fundamental concerns surrounding her professionalism and trustworthiness and are incompatible with continued registration.”