Sharon Clark, 28, was suspended on full pay 'for her own safety and so the issue can be fully investigated', said Max Millett, unit general manager of St James's Hospital, Portsmouth. She had informed managers at the hospital that she was suffering from symptoms of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy in autumn 1991, and said she was seeing a psychiatrist.
Sufferers can harm other people - often children in their care - usually as a perverse way of drawing attention to themselves. Allitt was given 13 life sentences last week for murdering four children and attacking nine others in her care at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital in 1991.
Mr Millett said there was 'no hint' that anything irregular had occurred to patients in Mrs Clark's care. Unlike Allitt, Mrs Clark was not a qualified nurse and could not administer drugs without supervision. 'It is dangerous to assume everyone who is diagnosed as having this disease is in an extreme category.'
When she alerted managers, Mrs Clark was referred to the hospital's occupational health doctor, Richard Brownfield, who consulted her psychiatrist. Dr Brownfield advised that there was 'no evidence to suggest that she was unsafe to be on duty,' Mr Millett said.
Further medical advice was sought after the Allitt case. 'With public interest raised, we felt it would be wise to double-check the position.' Dr Richard Sawyer, the hospital's new occupational health doctor, would make further investigations 'within the next few weeks'.
Mrs Clark started work in the elderly mental health service on the hospital's Hambrook Ward in June 1987. Interviews and routine screening failed to reveal any problems.
In 1992 four leading specialists diagnosed Mrs Clark as having Munchausen's syndrome by proxy and social services removed her four-year- old son from her because of her condition.
She had denied the boy food and deceived doctors about illnesses he had suffered. He now lives with his father.