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Royal Free nurse struck off for stealing £700 from vulnerable patient ‘showed no remorse.’

PUBLISHED: 13:23 11 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:23 11 January 2016

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead

PA Wire/Press Association Images

A nurse at The Royal Free Hospital who stole a bank card from patient with learning disabilities has been struck off for “bringing the nursing profession into disrepute.”

A conduct hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard junior sister Karisma Garcia, 37, of Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn, took a bank card belonging to patient Maurice Downey and was caught on CCTV withdrawing the money from a cash machine at the hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, in October 2014.

Garcia was arrested and sentenced to 100 hours community service by Highbury magistrates on January 20 last year after admitting one count of theft.

She was also ordered to pay Mr Downey £700 compensation.

Representing the NMC, Mr Henry Vallance said: “The patient, who had learning disablilities, was being prepared for discharge from hospital when staff discovered a bank card was missing from his wallet which had been locked in a cupboard by his bed.”

“The patient told them that he had asked the nurse to take his bank card and make a withdrawal of £100 on an earlier occasion and that she had done so and put the money in his wallet.

“But CCTV recovered from the hospital showed that she returned to the cash machine with his card later that day and made further withdrawals of £700 without his knowledge or permission,” said Mr Vallance.

Garcia, who failed to attend the hearing and now lives in Denmark, had been working as a Category 6 junior sister with a managerial role at the Royal Free since 2009.

Following her conviction, Garcia was temporarily suspended from the nursing register for a year in February 2015.

Arguing that Garcia’s fitness to practice was impaired as a result of the conviction, Mr Vallance said: “The theft of money from a vulnerable patient by a nurse in the course of her duty is conduct which brings the profession into disrepute.”

Ruling that Garcia’s ability to practice had been impaired by her dishonesty, panel chairman Leslie Cuthbert said: “Patient A was a vulnerable individual. Although there was no physical harm to him, psychological harm was caused by the dishonesty. The patient was reported to be upset by what occurred and it is highly likely that the incident will have a lasting impact on him and the trust he would place on nurses in the future.”

Mr Cuthbert said Garcia had brought the nursing profession into disrepute and undermined public confidence in the profession.

He said: “Her conviction breaches fundamental tenets of the nursing profession, namely those of honesty and a requirement to act lawfully.”

Mr Cuthbert said that although she had pleaded guilty at court, Miss Garcia had since claimed 
that she had only borrowed the money with the patient’s knowledge.

He said: “Miss Garcia has shown no remorse since her conviction or insight into the harm she had caused patients or the wider profession.”

In deciding to strike her off the nursing register, Mr Cuthbert said that she had “abused her position of trust at The Royal Free 
where the victim was a vulnerable patient and she was a junior 
sister and a role model for other nurses.”

He said: “Miss Garcia’s failings were not at the lower end of the spectrum.

“A caution order would neither reflect the seriousness of the conduct identified nor satisfy the wider public interest in maintaining public confidence in the profession and the NMC’s regulatory function.”

“Miss Garcia caused harm to a vulnerable patient, both emotional and financial, whilst she was on duty. She abused her position of trust by her dishonesty and received a criminal conviction. The panel was of the view that the findings in this particular case demonstrate that Miss Garcia’s actions were serious and to allow her to continue practising would undermine public confidence in the profession and in the NMC as a regulatory body.

“Balancing all of these factors and after taking into account all the evidence before it, the panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is that of a striking-off order.”

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