A SENIOR nurse who represented a patient in court after developing an ‘unhealthy relationship’ with him has been found guilty of misconduct.

Darlington-based Catherine Bennison gave the man regular cash handouts and continued to prescribe him drugs long after she was removed from his care, the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard.

It was only when she was discovered by an intervention team in his lounge next to a table littered with drug paraphernalia that the depth of their friendship was exposed.

She denies ever having sex with the man, known as Patient A, but admits engaging in an inappropriate relationship with him over a four-year period.

Finding Bennison guilty of misconduct, panel chair Jetinder Shergill said her actions were "deplorable and amounted to serious misconduct".

Mr Shergill said: “In the panel's view Ms Bennison abused her position of trust repeatedly, despite clear instructions from management and failed to disengage in that inappropriate involvement with Patient A.

“The panel also considered that Ms Bennison did not act in Patient A's best interests.

“He had been described as a vulnerable patient, with a violent nature who suffered from paranoia, sudden mood swings, anxiety and was a drug abuser.

“Ms Bennison disregarded the impact that the over-familiar contacts with Patient A might have had on his mental state.”

Bennison worked for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Fundation Trust and was the care co-ordinator for patient A.

The man was characterised as a 'high risk offender' with a history of criminal offences, drug abuse and known to carry knives.

The tribunal heard that Patient A also exhibited 'jealous' behaviour and accused Bennison of being in a sexual relationship with other patients.

On February 22, 2012, Bennison was discovered with the patient in his lounge by police.

She gave a false name to officers and was sat under a blanket next to a table strewn with drug paraphernalia, the panel heard.

The nurse admitted that the pair had a relationship, but denied any sexual motivation. Bennison, who did not attend the London tribunal, admitted that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the patient and that she prescribed him drugs when he was out of her care.

The panel will now move on to consider what sanction to impose.

The hearing resumes on March 26.