Nurse alleged to have ‘bared her breasts and performed sex acts on a patient’

Julie Porthouse admitted she did ‘muddy the water with boundaries’ with the man 

A nurse accused of baring her breasts and performing sex acts on a patient said she was just trying to provide him with emotional support.

Julie Porthouse admitted she did ‘muddy the water with boundaries’ with the man but claimed she was worried about him after another patient committed suicide.

Porthouse denied claims she exposed her breasts, showed off her tattoo on her lower back and gave the man oral sex after visiting the man at his home.

She also denied leaving an earring behind in his bedroom.

The community psychiatric nurse was working for Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust at the time of the alleged affair between May 2012 and September of that year.

Porthouse told the Nursing and Midwifery Council she wept after she was accused of having an affair with the man, referred to as Service User A, by her manager Heather Meek, who asked: ‘Where have you been, out gallivanting?’

At the time Porthouse said she told Ms Meek she had been in the assessment clinic.

Ben Rich, defending, asked: ‘Why didn’t you say you were with Service User A?’

Porthouse replied: ‘I don’t know, I can only think she was just asking about the whole day.’

Another senior colleague, Merlina Spring, then spoke to her. Porthouse said: ‘She just kept repeating “it’s not good, it’s not good”.

‘She said, ‘you know everybody is talking about your dress’.

‘She said, ‘there’s gossip in the team that you are having an affair’.

‘I was totally shocked. I said, ‘You think all this time I have been out having an affair? Why? Because you couldn’t see where I am and my dress style has improved?

‘I said something along the lines of ‘that’s quite slanderous’.

‘I’ve been sitting across from a paranoid schizophrenic, I haven’t been doing anything other than that.

‘I felt extremely emotional. I started to cry and I said ‘I’m going to go home now’.

The next day Ms Spring told her to cancel her next appointment with Service User A:

‘She asked, ‘why are you seeing Service User A twice this week?’

‘I explained about his father passing away and the way he was presenting and how nervous he gets when someone goes on annual leave.

She said ‘I want you to cancel that appointment on Friday. I want you to ring him ten minutes before the appointment and tell him you are too busy to see him.

‘I felt unable to voice my concern at lying to a service user. It had taken months to build up trust with him.

The community psychiatric nurse was working for Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust at the time (pictured) 

‘I felt backed into a corner, that I had to agree to what was being said because of this gossip.

‘I didn’t agree with the decision I had been given. I thought it was at least polite to contact A on the Wednesday to let him know I wouldn’t be attending on the Friday.’

Porthouse described her meeting later that day with Ms Meek and Gretl Bruce, after she had called the patient to tell him she wouldn’t be coming on Friday.

‘I was sitting there thinking what’s all about? I come in the room, sit down and the next thing I know she’s asking me ‘are you having a sexual relationship with Service User A?’

I said: ‘No, that’s awful. She said ‘Well, you have been seeing him an awful lot.’

‘There were various other things she was saying, the way your dressing has changed, gossip in the team, Merlina isn’t putting them together, but I am.’

‘I just burst into tears.’

Referring to Service User A’s evidence that Porthouse left an earring at his house, she said: ‘On a couple of occasions, Service User A would run through storylines with me.

‘Part of his recovery was getting back into his second book. He would tell me storylines and ask me ‘what do I think of this?’

‘One particular day he asked me whether I had left an earring at a man’s house and I said ‘no, I haven’t maybe, if I was younger I might have done,’ that kind of thing.

‘It was just meant as a kind of joke, not meant as anything other than that, but obviously I can see how it would appear it is.

‘I texted, ‘when will I pick up the earring?’ and he said, ‘I have already pawned it’.

‘I texted back something like ‘good comeback’.

Mr Rich asked Porthouse why she had excessive contact with the patient.

She said: ‘I think I was very anxious to ensure I provided him with enough support.

‘When I was told I hadn’t provided that in the first case, and because there were real similarities and the death of his father, I put them together and thought that if I had more contact I would support him more.’

Rebecca Richardson, for the NMC, asked: ‘Do you accept increased level of contact could lead to cycle of dependence being created?’

Porthouse replied: ‘Yes.’

Ms Richardson asked if there were similarities between Service User A and her former patient who had committed suicide?

Porthouse replied: ‘Yes, in particular the nationality and the recent death of the father.’

She added: ‘When the outcome of a disciplinary is that you haven’t provided enough support, it does effect the support you would give to other people, because you think that you feel responsible for somebody ending their life..’

Porthouse told the Nursing and Midwifery Council (office pictured) she wept after she was accused of having an affair with the man

Ms Richardson asked: ‘Did you see Service User A as opportunity to correct some of the mistakes you made?’

Porthouse replied: ‘I never consciously thought that, I just wanted to help his improve his quality of life, that’s all I have ever wanted to do.

‘I always thought of him as a service user.’

She added: ‘I did muddy the water with boundaries, I do agree. I can’t sit here and say that I didn’t because I did.’

Ms Richardson asked: ‘Do you think he was manipulating you into caring for him?’

Porthouse replied: ‘I don’t know. I have only ever tried to survive this ordeal, think about what can I do better. I haven’t really thought about Service User A’s motivations.’

She explained that she wanted to ’empower’ the patient.

Ms Richardson asked: ‘Did that empowerment extend to wanting to make him feel attractive?

Porthouse replied: ‘No, our relationship was never on a sexual level.’

Asked about a visit she made to the patient’s home she said: ‘I didn’t mean to pop in, I was to going to put it [paperwork] in his letterbox.’

Ms Richardson asked: ‘It was inappropriate, wasn’t it?’

Porthouse replied: ‘Yes.’

Ms Richardson continued: ‘He was tense and you were going to help him relax.. This was in the context of ongoing discussion about attraction.

‘No, none of that happened.

‘I never sought out the compliments he gave me, he just spontaneously gave them to me.

Ms Richardson said: ‘This progressed to the bedroom.’

Porthouse said: ‘No, that never happened.’

Ms Richardson continued: ‘This went further, you masturbated him and gave him oral sex. You also exposed your breasts and that’s how he became aware that you had a tattoo on your lower back.

‘That’s also how you left an earring, that’s how it came to be in his bedroom.’

Porthouse said: ‘That’s not true.’

Porthouse, who is present and represented at the hearing, admits excessive contact with the service user, but denies all other charges.

The hearing continues.