UPDATE: Yarmouth nurse cautioned over patient phone calls

A nurse who exchanged hundreds of phone calls with a violent schizophrenic was given a caution yesterday.

Valerie Hugo, 59, chatted to the patient for more than 34 hours on her personal phones while working on the medium-security Coastlands unit at Northgate Hospital, Great Yarmouth.

Records from a payphone on the unit showed more than 400 calls had been made to Hugo's home number, along with more than 180 to her mobile.

An additional 200 calls had been received from the same numbers.

The nurse was cleared of kissing and discussing intimate details of her life with the man, identified as Patient A, earlier this week.

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Hugo was today handed a three-year caution order by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

She was also found to have failed to provide proper care to a dying man with dementia and Down's Syndrome at Oulton Park Care Home in Lowestoft.

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The patient, identified as Resident A, passed away shortly after the incident on December 8, 2007.

Hugo was found guilty of failing to call his family until 7.40pm – around 15 minutes before he died – and neglecting his medical notes.

But panel chairman David Kyle said it was the nurse's relationship with Patient A that led them to decide her fitness to practise was impaired.

The paranoid schizophrenic was being detained for wounding under the Mental Health Act at the time.

Mr Kyle said: 'Patient A was a man persistently seeking to pursue a relationship with the registrant, who eventually gave in.

'This leads the panel to believe it went beyond her simply extending her support and friendship when she was not at work.

'The panel also considers that there must have been a level of reciprocity.'

He added that the relationship was 'highly damaging' to Patient A and may well have continued if he had not revealed it to her colleagues.

'It is, however, a relationship which occurred some seven years ago and there has been no repetition of similar misconduct,' he said.

Hugo admitted giving Patient A her home phone number and engaging in numerous telephone conversations with him between February 24 and April 27, 2004.

She was earlier cleared of discussing intimate and sexual matters with the patient and kissing and accepting gifts from him.

The nurse was found guilty of failing to inform Resident A's family of his condition and four counts of failing to keep proper medical notes.

But allegations she prescribed the wrong drugs for him and failed to call a doctor or check on his welfare were found not proved.

The caution order will stay on Hugo's registration for three years and must be shown to any potential employers.

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