Nurse Michael Vale faces being struck off over kiss
A PSYCHIATRIC nurse could be struck off for kissing a patient at Queen Victoria Hospital.
Michael Vale admitted telling a burns victim he loved her and kissing her on the forehead as she recovered from a suicide attempt, a tribunal heard this week.
It was also alleged the 68-year-old invited the patient to dinner and expressed his love for her during an illicit phone call.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) cleared Mr Vale of sexually motivated behaviour on Tuesday, after the panel decided the allegation had not been proven.
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But the panel will meet again today to decide whether he is fit to continue working as a nurse, and if he should face punishment.
"Patient A" was admitted to the burns unit at the hospital in March 2010, after she set herself on fire.
The NMC's Hannah Stevenson said Mr Vale was first spotted kissing the patient on the forehead by night shift nurse Ricky Ramsey.
Four days later Vanessa Hunt, an operational outreach nurse, saw him do the same thing.
Mrs Hunt told the panel she was astounded. She said: "While covering the patient's feet, I heard a kissing noise. Then I saw Mr Vale kiss the patient twice on the forehead.
"She was a vulnerable adult and his role was to protect her emotionally. She was quite confused – emotionally confused – she was unsure whether what he was doing was acceptable or not."
Asked how Mr Vale's behaviour had impacted on the patient, Mrs Hunt replied: "I recall she thought she had done something wrong. She was quite tearful about it."
Mr Vale told the hearing: "To me it's all about perception. I treat all people the same: as loving human beings. I always have done and always will. That's how I am."
His friend Brian Hardy, who worked alongside him until 1983, said Mr Vale always had a tactile approach to nursing, and he had feared a case like this was likely.
He told the hearing: "The first time I met Michael he put his arms around me and kissed me – it's his way, his manner.
"He's so exuberant, so tactile, and these days people are far more defensive and I'm not surprised that something has come up."
A psychiatric assessment revealed Patient A was "highly susceptible to suggestion" and "extremely vulnerable".
The hearing was told Mr Vale also held the patient's hand as he said goodbye, let her rest her head on his shoulders and stroked her hair in comfort.
They exchanged phone numbers and Mr Vale, contracted to the hospital by private firm Mayday Healthcare PLC, called her on his day off to see how she was.
She no longer remembers what happened, hampering formal attempts to investigate by the hospital, police and social services.
NMC panel chairman James Crowe pointed out she was complimentary about Mr Vale.
Mr Crowe said: "You told the panel your actions towards Patient A constituted an attempt to make her feel loved as a human being, to better her wellbeing and enhance her self-esteem."
The hearing will reconvene today. If it finds Mr Vale's fitness to practise is impaired, he could be struck off the nursing register.