A disgraced borough nurse who made his mentally-ill patients do naked squats has been suspended for six months.
Joe Apeaning, was caring for men with “serious mental health issues” at The Spinney in Atherton, when the degrading acts were carried out in June 2015.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard how Apeaning, who was working as acting charge nurse at the time, had made “vulnerable” patients strip and squat at the psychiatric intensive care unit during a search which he was not authorised to carry out.
The charges presented at the tribunal included “instructing colleague A to touch patient A’s testicles” and “performing a removal of clothing search when it was not proportionate to do so”.
A hearing was carried out by a different panel last year, found that there was “no impairment” to Apeaning’s fitness to practise and allowed him to carry on working.
But, dissatisfied by this result, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appealed the NMC decision and was granted a new hearing - which took place earlier this month.
The new panel heard how Patient A was admitted to The Spinney from another facility after setting fire to his bedroom on two occasions.
Patient A, whose age was not given in the document, had a diagnosis of psychotic illness and substance misuse, with a history of epilepsy and hallucinations.
He was reportedly aggressive, intimidating to other patients and had threatened to burn the hospital down.
On the day in question the NMC heard how another patient - who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia - had arrived on the ward from another facility.
The report read: “Colleague A had observed them acting suspiciously in the courtyard and thought he had smelt cannabis.
“When the patients returned to the ward, they also appeared to act suspiciously. Urine drug screen tests were carried out on them and all other patients on the ward.
“In addition, rub down searches (which entailed a pat down of the clothed body, emptying of the patients’ pockets and removal of their shoes) and bedroom searches were completed.
“No illicit substances were found on the patients or in their rooms.”
The urine test showed that patient A, who had been living at the intensive care unit for a while, had no cannabis in his system but patient B, who arrived that day, tested positive.
Apeaning is said to have called a doctor, who gave permission for a “body search” as well as the ward manager, who denied giving him the go-ahead for the searches.
“It is alleged that you ordered patients A and B to squat, while they were naked during the searches.
“During the search of patient A it is alleged that you instructed colleague A to touch patient A’s testicles.
“During the search of patient B it is alleged that you interrogated patient B whilst he was squatting naked.”
All of the charges related to the strip searches were found proved in their entirety.
There are also a number of charges relating to seclusion of residents with “serious” mental health problems.
The NMC found that Apeaning placed two patients into secluded confinement without giving any indication as to why in his notes.
Panel members have read several testimonies from current colleagues at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, as well as a piece written by Apeaning himself.
“You said your practice has definitely changed now and also the way in which you deal with patients depending on the circumstances,” reads the report.
“You said that you have felt a lot of guilt and had sleepless nights around what happened on 2015 and that you currently receive a lot of support from your current employer.
“You said that at the time of the events, you had recently been promoted to the position of charge nurse and that you were not fully familiar with the policy as you had only read the policy once at the time you joined the company.”
NMC panel members heard how there has been “no recurrence” of any incidents since June 2015.
They took into account the aggravating factors including the “vulnerability” of the patients and the fact that Apeaning was in a “senior position”.
They also concluded that the mental health nurse was “inexperienced” at the time he took the role and that he has provided numerous positive testimonials who were aware of the charges.
Overall the panel agreed that Apeaning showed “no evidence of harmful deep-seated personality or attitudinal problems” and they agreed that he does not pose a “significant risk” of repeated behaviour.
He was suspended for six months and will be allowed to take up employment without review at the beginning of 2019.