A NURSE who developed an unhealthy relationship with a 'high-risk' patient and represented him in court has been barred from the profession.

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 (NMC) 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.

The Darlington-based nurse denies having sex with 'patient A' but admits engaging in an inappropriate relationship with him over a four year period.

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

Ordering that Bennison's name should be struck from the register, panel chairman Jetinder Shergill said her actions were 'deplorable and amounted to serious misconduct'.

He said: “The panel had found that Ms Bennison had breached fundamental tenets of the profession, put a patient at risk, and brought the reputation of the profession into disrepute.

“The panel also considered that she had abused her position of trust. She had demonstrated a lack of awareness and respect for her responsibilities.”

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

The man was described as a "high risk offender" with a history of criminality and drug abuse.

The tribunal heard that Bennison appeared at Northallerton Magistrates' Court on behalf of patient A in 2008, and told the court that he was mentally unfit.

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

The probation service and the hospital trust formed an action plan and the patient was removed from Bennison's care.

Bennison, who did not attend the tribunal in central London, 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 nurse, who has worked in the profession for 27 years, was struck off and will not be able to apply for restoration for five years.