Nurse hailed hero after Gorleston hospital gun drama

A nurse has been hailed as a hero after calmly dealing with an armed visitor in a busy ward of a Norfolk hospital.

The staff nurse, who is too modest to talk about her ordeal, reported for her day shift at Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital as normal yesterday – less than 12 hours after the drama in the emergency admissions and discharge unit was ended by armed police.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing, said the nurse, in her mid-20s, was in charge of a bay with six patients and was alerted to a visitor behaving inappropriately at about 7pm on Thursday.

She saw the man cutting up an apple for a patient with what appeared to be a flick knife and noticed he had what resembled a handgun in his bag.

Mr Coveney said: 'The man appeared to be intoxicated and was behaving strangely. He was trying to talk to patients other than the woman he was visiting.'

He said the nurse told a ward clerk to call the police, adding: 'Where patients were able to, the nurse asked them quietly to leave, but she stayed with patients who were suffering from dementia to make sure they were calm and did not try to interract with the man.'

Armed police closed the exits when they arrived and arrested the man without disturbing patients. The gun was later found to be a replica.

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Mr Coveney said: 'I don't think the nurse realised what an amazing job she had done. She followed our escalation procedures to the letter and showed a level of bravery and heroism in a situation that could easily have deteriorated.

'We are used to dealing with violence and aggression in A and E but this was not that sort of situation.'

He said it was reassuring to see their emergency systems worked, but they would be looking to see if any lessons could be learned.

Insp Paul McCarthy, from the response team, said: 'Our priority is the safety of the public and our officers ensured there was no risk to patients, staff and relatives.'

A 39-year-old local man was last night released on police bail pending further inquiries.