Psychiatric nurse cleared of attack on patient

Nurse James France was cleared of attack. Picture: Julie Bull
Nurse James France was cleared of attack. Picture: Julie Bull
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A NURSE at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital has been cleared of attacking a vulnerable psychiatric patient.

James France had been accused of repeatedly assaulting the male patient – who suffers from bipolar disorder – over a two-day period.

Giving evidence at his trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, the 30-year-old admitted “on reflection” he would have acted differently in treating the patient, who was often severely agitated and sometimes violent.

However, France insisted he had not been “overly forceful”, and had no intention of injuring the patient when using physical contact on him.

Finding France not guilty, Sheriff Gordon Liddle said he was not convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” that any assaults had taken place.

Sheriff Liddle said he was “not a disciplinary tribunal” and had not made the ruling based on protocols on handling patients used by the hospital.

He also said the evidence heard during the trial indicated a “certain animosity” between some staff members at Carnethy House but added: “I’ll leave it at that.”

France had been reported to hospital authorities by fellow nurses who said they witnessed his actions.

In one incident on April 21 last year, France had been accused of dragging the naked patient – who was suffering from painful haemorrhoids – into a padded room while shocked colleagues looked on.

The following day, France was accused of pushing the patient against a wall, pouring water into his mouth, compelling him to drink it, and holding his head and arms against a wall.

Nursing assistant Michelle Buckingham said France appeared “agitated, aggressive, like he wasn’t in control” as he dragged the patient to a seclusion room.

Nurse Debbie Aughey told the court she witnessed the same incident. Giving evidence, France – who worked at the hospital from 2007 until last year – said he “loved” his job as it allowed him to “make a difference in people’s lives”.

He denied dragging the patient to a seclusion room on April 21 and only “took hold of his right arm with my right arm” as his agitation was “escalating rapidly”.

He added: “I felt he posed a threat to himself and other staff members.”

France said he did not breach any hospital policies on restraining patients.

Sheriff Liddle paid tribute to staff at Carnethy House, which usually treats around five psychiatric patients who exhibit “challenging” behaviour.

He said: “It seems to me that all the nurses operating in this unit do so under the most extreme circumstances which requires the patience of a saint.”

After leaving court, France – who now lives in Derbyshire – declined to comment.