Nurse suspended after letting patient high on Spice out on leave

Mental health nurse is suspended after allowing sectioned patient to wander into town while high on synthetic drug Spice before getting drunk and paying a stranger £3.50 for a fight before sexually harassing female staff

  • Nurse Matthew Edward Cheetham was suspended for nine months by a tribunal 
  • Nurse was found guilty of misconduct by the Nursing and Midwifery Council 
  • ‘Patient A’ was allowed on leave to Plymouth centre despite failed drugs test
  • He went AWOL before returning after midnight and sexually harassing staff 

A mental health nurse has avoided being struck off after allowing a violent sectioned patient to wander into a city centre while high on Spice – where he got drunk and paid a stranger to fight him before returning to sexually harass staff. 

Matthew Edward Cheetham allowed the unnamed patient to leave the Livewell Syrena House facility, in Plymouth, despite failing a drugs test just hours earlier, a tribunal heard.  

Notes from the Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing say ‘Patient A’ insisted he had not taken any drugs but that a follow-up test proved otherwise – and meant he should have had his leave privileges revoked. 

Despite this, on April 24, 2019, the patient, who had been detained under the Mental Health Act following violent criminal offences, was first allowed to go outside for a cigarette.

Later that day, the tribunal found, Mr Cheetham, who had been working at the facility since 2011, then signed him off for evening leave. 

In his ‘risk assessment’ notes the nurse had written: ‘Despite the news that he tested positive for Spice, Patient A appeared relatively relaxed and denied being at risk to himself or others.’

Matthew Edward Cheetham allowed the unnamed patient to leave the Livewell Syrena House facility (pictured), in Plymouth, despite failing a drug test just hours earlier, a tribunal heard

Notes from the hearing say ‘Patient A’ insisted he had not taken any drugs but that a follow-up test proved otherwise – and meant he should have had his leave privileges revoked (file photo)

Mr Cheetham allegedly later told his manager that he was unaware that Patient A’s conditions stated any positive drug test should result in the immediate revoking of his leave privileges. 

‘Patient A’ agreed to return by 9pm but went AWOL after failing to show up. 

When he eventually returned at 12.52am, he became confrontational and sexually harassed a staff member, the tribunal heard. 

The ruling reads: ‘Patient A was under the influence of alcohol and, at 1.10am, was confrontational and sexually inappropriate towards a female member of staff. 

Spice is the nickname given to  synthetic cannabinoids, which are man-made drugs.

They were originally designed to mimic the effects of the active ingredient in cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gives the feeling of being stoned.

Spice is a nickname for a substance containing one or more synthetic cannabinoids.

They may be powdered chemicals, dissolved and sprayed onto paper or dried plant material. 

It is becoming more common to find them as liquid, often on paper dipped in the fluid.

Synthetic cannabinoids are often much stronger and many people describe quite different effects to natural cannabis.

Due to their potency, many people experience unpleasant and unpredictable side effects such as inability to move, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, seizures and extreme anxiety. 

Using with other alcohol and other drugs, including prescribed medicines, increases the risks of unwanted and harmful effects.  


‘Patient A stated that he had paid a stranger £3.50 to have a fight with him and he had a bruise on his face. 

‘It is alleged that throughout the night Patient A was behaving erratically. 

‘As a result, more staff were called in, and the police attended to try to manage the risks.’ 

It added: ‘The panel was of the view that on the balance of probability, it was more likely than not that Mr Cheetham granted Patient A leave in the knowledge that he had tested positive for illicit substance earlier that day.’

On its misconduct ruling, it said: ‘The panel was of the view that Mr Cheetham’s actions did fall significantly short of the standards expected of a registered nurse, and that Mr Cheetham’s actions amounted to a breach of the Code.’ 

It added: ‘The panel appreciated that breaches of the Code do not automatically result in a finding of misconduct. 

‘However, the panel was of the view that Mr Cheetham’s actions found proved resulted in actual harm to Patient A, a member of the public and Mr Cheetham’s colleagues at the Unit.  

‘Taking all the information into account, the panel found that Mr Cheetham’s actions did fall seriously short of the conduct and standards expected of a nurse and amounted to misconduct.’

In suspending him for nine months, the tribunal said Mr Cheetham showed ‘no remorse’ and that his actions were at risk of being repeated.  

It came after he refused to engage with the council’s tribunal. 

The council said: ‘The panel is of the view that due to the lack of engagement it has no evidence of insight, remediation or remorse and there remains a real risk of repetition.’

However it did not believe his actions warranted him being struck off the register.  

Syrena House is a recovery unit in Plymstock for ‘men with severe and long-standing mental health conditions.’ 

Its website says some of its residents may have spent time ‘in a more secure facility before arriving’ there.  

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