A prison nurse who met up with a patient after he was released from jail has been suspended.

Karen Vergen was the primary care lead at HMP Lewes when she treated the inmate for high blood pressure among other concerns.

She cared for him between May 16 and June 20, 2021, before the prisoner, known as patient A, was released from jail on July 5 that year.

In a misconduct hearing by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), a panel found that Ms Vergen had taken patient A’s contact details and used them to initiate contact with him “without clinical justification”.

The panel heard evidence from the head of healthcare at HMP Lewes at the time of the incidents, known as Ms 1.

Ms 1 said: “Ms Vergen told me that she discovered during treating Patient A and his day-to-day activities as the healthcare orderly, that they both had a lot in common and they exchanged email addresses on the day of his release.”

The panel found, from evidence given at the fitness to practise committee substantive hearing held from February 19 to 23 this year, that Ms Vergen had then maintained contact with the patient and met up with him.

She also allowed the patient to kiss her after the pair spent four hours together at a beach near Chichester.

An investigation report into the incident recorded that: “Ms Vergen said that she understands that she should not have made deliberate contact with Patient A.

“Ms Vergen said that the contact was meant to be supportive because Patient A had long-term conditions however he kissed Ms Vergen to say goodbye.

“Ms Vergen acknowledged that she has breached the NMC code of conduct by meeting and kissing Patient A.”

A formal disciplinary hearing was scheduled for October 15, 2021, but Ms Vergen resigned the day before.

The NMC’s hearing found Ms Vergen’s actions were not sexually motivated.

A report on the hearing reads: “Within the text messages exchanged between Patient A and Ms Vergen, Patient A is readily expressive and states his feelings of ‘love’ for Ms Vergen.

“Ms Vergen, meanwhile, is relatively reticent.”

The panel found that Ms Vergen’s actions “bring the nursing profession into disrepute” and that she had breached “a fundamental tenet” of the profession.

Barrister Hena Patel presented the case and submitted that there had been several instances where Ms Vergen’s actions had fallen “substantially below the standard expected of registered nurses.”.

The report said: “Given the prison setting in which the concerns arose, the panel decided that it was the particular setting and the power imbalance in this case which made the breach of professional boundaries sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct”.

Ms Vergen has been suspended from being a nurse for six months.

The panel considered that a striking-off order would be disproportionate as the misconduct is not of a sexual nature and the breach of professional boundaries was an isolated incident.

The report concluded: “This period of suspension will allow Ms Vergen time to make efforts to strengthen her practice and prepare to meet with a review panel, where she will have an opportunity to portray her progress and potentially return to nursing unrestricted.”