A nurse in Liverpool was sacked for selling highly personal information on patients suffering with erectile dysfunction and other conditions to a private company, for money and an Amazon gift voucher.
Salihu Samas, who worked at Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool, was paid by pharmaceutical research firm Cam Market Research Recruitment Ltd, via bank transfers and by the gift voucher on one occasion, for the information.
Mr Samas, a urology nurse, had worked at the hospital trust since 1999 but was sacked in 2018, for gross misconduct after his activities came to light, the Liverpool Echo.
Now he has been suspended from practicing as a nurse anywhere else in the UK for six months, after an investigation by regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The NMC requested that he be struck off permanently, but an independent disciplinary panel decided to give him another chance based on character references describing Samas as a "brilliant nurse" and the fact that no patients were harmed.
According to a written summary of the decision, the panel found that Samas had deliberately covered up the arrangement from his bosses at the trust as he "knew it was wrong".
Samas claimed he wanted to "make a difference" and "improve patient's lives" by aiding research into a prostate cancer drug and treatment for erectile dysfunction.
However the panel, consisting of David Evans, Kim Bezzant and Kevin Connelly, wrote: "[The panel] noted that you had clearly supplied your bank details in an email to the company, had received monies from it and had attempted to redeem an Amazon gift voucher from them.
"You could have declined these financial benefits or, alternatively, given them to the Trust.
"It noted your admission that you had kept the money for your own personal use.
"The panel decided that you knew you were going to be paid, based on the clear audit trail of the emails between yourself and the Company, and that you had not declared this to management as you knew it was wrong."
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The panel members described Samas's evidence as "contradictory" and said he had made statements "that were untrue", including that he had donated the money to a hospice when he later admitted he kept it for himself.
In his evidence, Samas claimed he had asked his patients verbally for consent to share their information.
However the panel found he could give "no plausible explanation" as to why he did not obtain written consent, despite this being a requirement under trust policy on patient confidentiality and medical research procedures.
They panel members stated: "The panel found there is also no convincing evidence that a formal discussion had taken place with these patients in relation to the process, and nothing to indicate the nature of information you gave to them, including whether you would be gaining financially from the provision of information.
"The panel concluded that your motive for not obtaining written consent and recording it in the patients’ notes was in order to obscure your actions from scrutiny within the Trust."
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The panel found that although Samas's insight into his misconduct was "limited" and "at an early stage", he had been apologetic and shown remorse.
The members stated: "The panel considered it to be very serious when a nurse acts without integrity, and in this case a suspension order would be a proportionate sanction and would protect the public whilst satisfying the public interest.
"It took into account that keeping a good and experienced nurse on the NMC’s register is an important factor to be considered and it is in the public interest to allow you the opportunity to return to safe practice when you have been able to demonstrate sufficient insight."
A spokesperson for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Broadgreen Hospital, said: “When the Trust became aware of allegations relating to Mr Samas’ conduct an internal investigation was undertaken.
"As a registered nurse, this process involved the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Mr Samas’ employment with the Trust ended in March 2018."
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