A nurse who forged a prescription for inhalers and sleeping tablets after stealing prescription forms from his workplace has appeared before a fitness-to-practise inquiry of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
The nurse, who cannot be named on direction of the NMBI, admitted to six allegations in relation to the unauthorised taking of prescription forms and medicines from Clonmethan Lodge in Oldtown, Co Dublin on May 3rd 2017.
The NMBI’s fitness-to-practise committee heard that the nurse claimed his actions were linked to an addiction to sleeping tablets he developed after being the victim of a violent assault by a resident of the care facility in November 2015.
The nurse told the inquiry that he no longer had any concerns about a relapse into substance abuse as he had stopped taking such medication in 2017 and wanted to be able to continue to work as a nurse.
The inquiry heard that he resigned from his job at Clonmethan Lodge in February 2020 before a disciplinary process had been completed and had subsequently worked for a nursing agency during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The nurse admitted taking approximately 20 prescription forms and various forms of sleeping tablets without authorisation from Clonmethan Lodge – a residential facility for people with an intellectual disability and associated mental health problems operated by St Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Service.
The inquiry heard the issue came to light after a pharmacy assistant questioned the forged prescription form presented by the nurse at Hickey’s Pharmacy on Henry Street in Dublin on May 3rd 2017.
He was subsequently identified from CCTV footage at the pharmacy by the HSE’s area director of mental health nursing in north Dublin, Eileen Kelly who made a formal complaint to the NMBI.
The nurse was subsequently questioned by gardaí, who also obtained a search warrant for his home.
The nurse’s solicitor, Kristy Kavanagh, accepted her client’s actions represented professional misconduct and a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for nurses.
The committee also heard that the nurse had pleaded guilty at a sitting of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in February 2020 to forgery of a prescription and four counts of theft for which he was given a suspended nine-month prison sentence.
However, Ms Kavanagh said her client did not accept the claim by the NMBI that he had a medical disability due to a history of hypnotic use disorder.
A consultant psychiatrist, Colin O’Gara, who was called as an expert witness by the NMBI, said he had met the nurse in July 2022 and believed he met the criteria for being classified as having a medical disability.
Under cross-examination by Ms Kavanagh, Prof O’Gara accepted that there was no automatic reason why someone with an addiction should not be able to return to work.
Prof O’Gara said the nurse met the definition for having a medical disability but did not display related clinical symptoms.
“That’s the difficulty,” Prof O’Gara observed.
In evidence, the man, who has worked as a nurse since 1991, said his addiction had affected his relationship with his family and other people as well as having a financial impact.
“I feel I left everyone down,” he remarked.
The man who described himself as “a very caring person” told the inquiry: “I miss working as a nurse. I miss it a lot.”
He added: “I’ve learnt my lesson. I just want to move on.”
The nurse said he would be willing to fund the cost of random drug testing on him as a safeguard measure.
The FTP committee said it would announce its findings in due course.