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Mental health nurse 'had relationship with ex-patient'

A mental health nurse started a relationship with a former patient through Facebook just two weeks after she left his care, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) disciplinary hearing was told today.

Timothy Hyde was not present at today's conduct and competence committee hearing in central London but admitted the relationship before an earlier disciplinary panel.

He is alleged to have conducted an inappropriate relationship with the woman between April and August 2008 which included a sexual relationship.

The panel was told they chatted on Facebook, went to a pub and met at the Glastonbury and Summer Solstice festivals.

Mr Hyde, 40, who worked as a community psychiatric nurse at the Wells Community Health Team and Glastonbury Health Centre, in Somerset, also watched a video at the woman's house.

Dr Muriel Churchill, who treated the patient after the relationship with Mr Hyde, said she was vulnerable with a long history of self harm which was often prompted by the breakdown of relationships.

"I feel Mr Hyde had abused his position and broke the trust he should have had with his patient," she said.

Asked if socialising with patients was inevitable in a small community like Wells, Dr Churchill said: "I understand they started chatting on Facebook so he didn't have to go out to meet her.

"He didn't meet her in the street. He was chatting online to her and they arranged to go for a coffee. That's how she described the start of their relationship."

Dr Churchill, who reported the relationship, said Mr Hyde must have known how vulnerable the woman was and that if the relationship ended it might trigger her to self harm.

"He should have known better," she added.

Panel chairwoman Winsome Levy said the charges had been found proved and members would now consider if Mr Hyde's fitness to practise was impaired.

Liz Forbes, presenting the case for the NMC, said his behaviour quite clearly amounted to misconduct.

She read extracts from a letter which Mr Hyde wrote to the NMC in May in which he accepted he had been "grossly unprofessional" and said he had chosen not to practise in the field of mental health in future.

"I deeply regret my actions," he wrote.

He had circled "yes" on a form which asked if he admitted his fitness to practise was impaired.

Ms Forbes said the panel should consider the "very short" gap between the therapeutic and personal relationships and the vulnerability of the patient who she said had self harmed for 15 years.

At a previous disciplinary hearing Mr Hyde had said it was "inhuman" that he had been suspended and confirmed he had told the woman words to the effect that he did not have room in his life for "someone like her" and blocked her from his Facebook page.

Ms Forbes said Mr Hyde showed a lack of insight and his fitness to practise was clearly impaired.

The panel is expected to make its decision this afternoon.