A LEADING nurse at a high-security mental health unit has been suspended after accessing patients records without authority.

Mark Rowlands claimed he had developed an ‘insatiable appetite’ for information, while working at Guild Lodge, near Longridge.

Because of the stress of the job, he has confessed he has repeatedly accessed patient records ‘out of curiosity’ between May 2010 and April 2011, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was told.

Six patients are said to be involved and Rowlands is alleged to have viewed their records, without a clinical reason, at least 16 times.

The nurse himself was actually a deputy team leader and later team leader on Dutton Ward, one of the low-security male wards at Guild Lodge, which is run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Guild Lodge hit the headlines earlier this year when Blackburn patient James Blackwell – convicted of a sex attack on a 14-year-old boy – went on the run while on a home visit. He was eventually recaptured.

And last November a Nelson man, Mark Coffey, walked out of the Darwen Ward, in the Hillview mental health unit at Blackburn, after waiting nine months for a bed at Guild Lodge.

The hospital also houses a number of high-profile patients who have been convicted of serious crimes.

The NMC’s conduct and competence panel heard that Rowlands, who had ongoing health issues, was no longer working in nursing.

Imposing an 18-month interim suspension, panel chairman Yvonne Brown said: “There is an indication that Mr Rowlands’ health is currently unstable and that his lifestyle may be chaotic.”