A sex therapist from Great Gonerby who groomed a vulnerable female patient and whisked her off to New York, later stripping naked in front of her, was struck off on Friday from the nursing profession.
Patricia Birch, a psychosexual counsellor living in Belton Lane, paid for the woman to accompany her to the Big Apple and also gave her $250 spending money, a tribunal hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council was told.
The registered nurse had previously sent “inappropriate” text messages to the patient as well as showering her with gifts and inviting her to her home during an 18-month period.
Birch – who did not attend the hearing in Central London – was found guilty of misconduct and struck off after being blasted by NMC panel chairman John Crawley for “grooming a vulnerable patient”.
During the trip, Birch, 70, had also dropped a towel to reveal her underwear to the stunned woman and took her to a transvestite restaurant where both women drank five gin and tonics each. The hearing heard that the patient did not know how she got back to the hotel where they were both staying.
Married Birch then stood naked in front of the woman, referred to as Patient A. The incident happened in a hotel room the two women were sharing during a seven-day trip to New York in 2011.
Mr Crawley said: “By grooming a vulnerable patient for her own sexual gratification the panel was also satisfied that Ms Birch’s behaviour had brought the profession into serious disrepute.”
Mr Crawley added: “Over two years later Patient A continues to suffer stress and nightmares as a result.”
He continued that the only action that could be taken was to strike off Birch, who was employed by the Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust from the nursing register.
The panel had been told that the patient awoke in the early hours of one morning to find Birch standing at the end of her bed with no clothes on. In a statement read to the panel, Patient A said that Birch said to her: “What happened. Why are we both naked?”
Such was the confused state that the patient was in, that she said in the statement that she could not remember how she was naked and if any sexual activity had taken place.
Birch had denied that she was naked and that her action was sexually motivated but the panel found these charges proven.
Patient A began seeing the sex counsellor in September 2009, after she had been suffering problems with her husband over her sexuality. A series of one-to-one sessions followed. Her husband was then invited to some of the sessions.
But the sessions then went back to just the patient and the counsellor, who then revealed that she had a female partner. The panel heard that those sessions then became longer, culminating in a series of meetings in October 2010 which lasted up to four hours each.
Patient A said that as a result of the sessions, she left both her husband and her partner.
It was then that Birch invited her to New York, sending a text saying: “Wanna go to NYC. Darling, I think you are a lovely woman. I see a lot of suffering and dying. Let’s do it. Champagne and New York.”
Following the incidents in the States the women fell out and in March 2011, the patient sent a letter of complaint to the Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust and an investigation was launched into the allegations. She said in a statement that she felt she (Patient A) had been groomed by Mrs Birch but had been “dropped” after she did not conform to her wishes.
The hearing heard that during September 2009 and October 2010, the sex counsellor breached patient confidentiality by disclosing details of other patients to Patient A. And that she did not maintain professional boundaries by sending the text messages, during a period from September 2009 to February 2011, and giving the patient gifts as well as having dinner with her and allowing the woman to visit her home on a number of occasions.
Mrs Birch, who is now retired, admitted breaching patient confidentiality and not maintaining professional boundaries.
She also admitted paying for Patient A to accompany her to New York, sharing a hotel room and giving the woman $250 dollars.
But the former nurse had denied telling the patient that she had never slept with a woman – a charge that was proved.