‘Menacing’ nurse tried to steal patient’s money

A “menacing” nurse locked a vulnerable patient in a hospital toilet to steal her money and altered records to cover his tracks.

Agency worker Bharat Chauhan asked a woman known as patient A if she had any money when he took her into a toilet cubicle during a night shift at Arrowe Park Hospital, Upton, in June 2022.

Mr Chauhan took the cash and put it in his tunic pocket before telling the woman she was confused and the money was in fact his.

The nurse, qualified for 20 years, attempted to intimidate the woman telling her she would “ruin his career” if she spoke up. A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said despite the seriousness of his offending, he would only receive a 12-month suspension.

A report released by the NMC’s fitness to practise committee said a referral was made regarding Mr Chauhan on 30 June 2022, by a senior sister detailing that he had accompanied patient A to the toilet and removed £160 from her purse. The incident was reported to the safeguarding team and to Merseyside Police who subsequently confirmed that no further action would be taken.

In evidence, Mr Chauhan said he thought it would be safer for the woman to check her money in the cubicle rather than in a public corridor. When the nurse – employed by MSL Healthcare at the time – asked if he could count patient A’s money, she thought he was taking an inventory and her valuables would be put away for safekeeping.

In her own disclosure, patient A said she saw a “swift movement” of the nurse’s hand and spotted the money sticking out of his tunic pocket. She said she recognised it was “crisp and flat” because it had just been withdrawn from the bank.

Mr Chauhan said he was “stunned” by the accusation and put the full amount back. Patient A said when she asked for the cash, the agency nurse said “it’s not yours, it’s mine”.

She reported becoming scared and felt vulnerable at being locked in the cubicle with the nurse and couldn’t get out as he could reach the door first. The NMC panel said there had been “no reason” for Mr Chauhan to get the money out and as a nurse of two decades’ experience, he would have known this crossed a line.

It was found Mr Chauhan also said to patient A after the incident, “are you going to do anything about this? I don’t want to be worrying all night”. He also said by speaking out, patient A would “ruin my life, and my career”.

The nurse had attempted to suggest patient A was confused about the money because she had been off her oxygen supply longer than usual. This was rejected by the NMC who said this was exaggerated “so as to cover your tracks, because in all likelihood you were concerned about patient A reporting the incident and that in such circumstances your career would be in jeopardy.”

The report also detailed how patient A felt threatened and intimidated by Mr Chauhan who whenever he went over to her bed, would put his hands on the rails and was “towering” over her. In her oral evidence, she said that it was “quite menacing really”.

The panel said on the balance of probabilities, Mr Chauhan’s “opportunistic” intentions had been to steal the cash but had not formed this view until he had established how much she had.

In its deliberations, it found that although entering and remaining in the toilet with patient A having locked the door, asking her about her purse and money was not in line with best practice, it was not serious enough to amount to misconduct.

Attempting to take the money however, was regarded as “an act of dishonesty, for personal gain, in a clinical setting, towards a vulnerable patient in a particularly vulnerable situation”. The officials also took a dim view of Mr Chauhan’s attempts to “manipulate” patient A by suggesting she was confused.

The woman gave evidence in relation to the emotional impact this incident had on her. It was noted she said she no longer trusts health professionals.

Additionally, the panel was presented with “numerous glowing testimonials” that supported his character and “trustworthiness”.

The panel determined that a suspension order for a period of 12 months with review was appropriate in this case to mark the seriousness of the misconduct.

It said the sanction was necessary to mark the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession and to send to the public and the profession a clear message about the standard of behaviour required of a registered nurse.

They concluded that the conduct involved was very serious, involving significant and varied acts of dishonesty and intimidation, causing harm to a vulnerable victim.

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