A NURSE has admitted starting a sexual relationship with a vulnerable former mental health patient.

Julie Cank, 42, of Burnley, who worked at Calderstones Hospital in Whalley for 15 years, told a fitness to practise hearing that she started a sexual relationship with the man after he moved from the unit to a supervised home.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing was told that after the 23-year-old left Calderstones in 2010 she visited his home, he had been to her house, they had consumed alcohol together, and had engaged in a sexual relationship.

She also told the hearing, in Manchester's Midland Hotel, that her conduct was sexually motivated.

Cank admitted the charge of having an inappropriate relationship with the former patient and the hearing will decided if she can continue as a nurse. She has already been dismissed by Calderstones, the hearing was told.

David Patience, representing the NMC, said: "It would have been inappropriate and a breach of professional boundaries even if there was no sexual relationship at that time."

The hearing heard that the man, known only as Patient A, had learning difficulties, a personality disorder, and had been sectioned aged 17 after being deemed a risk to the public and himself.

After his discharge, he moved into a supported housing scheme, where he received 30 hours of help per week for things such as cooking, socializing and dealing with finances.

The relationship came to light when the manager of Patient A's supported housing scheme expressed concern about visits by ‘a woman in her 40s who she believed was a nurse from Calderstones’.

Patient A referred to the visitor as his girlfriend.

The housing worker contacted Patient A's care co-ordinator who wrote to the assistant head of secure services at Calderstones, Michael Mahon, who identified the woman as Cank.

The care co-ordinator, Catrina Lohan, told the hearing: "I believe the relationship was inappropriate as she knew about his background and his personality disorder. He is a vulnerable adult."

Although stating that Patient A was able to understand the consequences of a sexual relationship, she added: "He did not have the ability to understand the power difference in the relationship.

"I believe Julie failed to maintain professional boundaries."

Mr Mahon held an interview at Calderstones with Miss Cank, in which she initially denied a sexual relationship with Patient A, before confessing a short time later.

Mr Mahon stated that Miss Cank was ‘generally very professional and very competent’, but expressed concerns about the relationship.

He said: "Patient A was a person subject to her control and there was an imbalance of power. You could argue that she was abusing that power."

Although Cank told Mr Mahon that she did not know of the NMC guidelines on safeguarding vulnerable adults, he claimed that a grade six nurse like Miss Cank should have been aware.