A nurse has been struck off after changing a dying patient’s will so one of her own relatives could live in their flat for just £50 a month.
Susan Salem encouraged the “highly vulnerable” cancer sufferer to leave the property to one of her own family members – who would then pay a mere £50 in rent, a disciplinary hearing heard.
The nurse changed made the plans after the patient was moved to Rowcroft Hospital in Torquay, Devon.
Over a “significant period of time” in 2019, Mrs Salem from Paignton, Devon, isolated the woman – known only as Patient A – from her two closest friends by acting as a “gatekeeper”.
The distraught friends told the hearing they were “robbed” of the chance to spend Patient A’s final few days with her.
The nurse has now been removed from the register by the Nursing and Midwifery Council after it found she assisted the unnamed family member in “benefitting from a vulnerable patient”.
It also concluded Mrs Salem’s conduct contributed to the woman’s “emotional isolation” at the end of her life.
At the time, she worked for the Rowcroft Hospice in Torquay, Devon, as a clinical nurse specialist treating those with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and MND.
Between April and September 2019, Mrs Salem formed a relationship which led to Patient A becoming reliant on her, and felt “distressed” when the nurse was removed from her care, the panel heard.
On 18 September 2019, Patient A changed her will, giving Mrs Salem’s relative a right to live in her house for two years for just £50 per month and £65 per month for the first and second years while working for her.
The panel heard Mrs Salem alienated Patient A’s friends after she told the vulnerable woman one friend – known only as Ms 1 – had said she thought her cancer had spread to her brain which then “damaged” their friendship.
Mrs Salem told another friend – Ms 2 – that all communication with Patient A was to go through her, despite the hospice having an email and 24-hour manned phone to contact residents.
Eventually, Patient A became “attached” to Mrs Salem – who had been a nurse for 16 years – and would look up at her “adoringly”.
While Patient A was in care, Mrs Salem accessed her flat, helped her with pension paperwork and gave her her private email address after her relationship with the friends had broken down, the panel heard.
After an internal investigation was launched, Mrs Salem was brought before a professional committee.
The panel concluded: “In all the circumstances, Mrs Salem’s actions had the effect of fostering a relationship of personal dependence between her and Patient A.
“Mrs Salem, through her actions, deprived a vulnerable patient of valuable, longstanding friendships during the last days of her life.
“She also inappropriately used her position to facilitate arrangements that financially benefitted a family member and engaged in “gatekeeping” behaviour which had the effect of isolating Patient A from other personal and professional support.
“The panel finds that Patient A was put at risk of harm as a result of Mrs Salem’s misconduct, which deprived her and her friends of access to the Rowcroft email, which was monitored 24 hours a day, and would have made it difficult for another professional to take over her care if required.
“It also finds that Mrs Salem’s misconduct contributed to Patient A’s emotional isolation at the end of her life.
“The panel concluded that Mrs Salem’s misconduct has breached the fundamental tenets of the nursing profession and therefore brought its reputation into disrepute.”
Mrs Salem was struck off with 18 month suspension in order to cover any appeal period.