Nurse faked two-year cancer battle
PUBLISHED: 10:04 02 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:04 02 April 2015
A WESTON nurse went to 'extraordinary lengths' to lie to bosses and colleagues as she made out she was suffering from cancer for more than two years.
Debra James, a nurse of 32 years, had her head shaved to convince sympathetic colleagues she was battling cancer.
Former co-workers exclusively told the Mercury they were stunned to learn of Ms James’ betrayal.
One woman, who cried while trying to comfort Ms James, said: “She took in an awful lot of people who believed her, looked after her and sympathised with her, when all the time she was lying to everyone.”
The lies emerged at a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) disciplinary hearing, where its panel criticised Ms James for her ‘elaborate deception’.
Ms James was employed by Beach Lawns Nursing Home on Weston seafront from February 2009 until December 2013.
During the NMC’s conduct and competence committee, Ms James admitted telling colleagues she had cancer. She turned up to work wearing plasters ‘to cover’ lesions, plus a head scarf and on one occasion shaved eyebrows.
However her lies unravelled when her manager tried to make adjustments to her work schedule to support her while ill and the nurse gave permission for health notes to be reviewed.
Within a month, Ms James told her bosses she had been given ‘a double dose of treatment’ which had cured her.
But Ms James had never been diagnosed with cancer. She never received a cancer biopsy, never had chemotherapy and never mentioned lesions in 12 trips to her GP between January 2010 and January 2013.
The NMC ruled she lied to secure extra tolerance for non-cancer-related sick leave, sympathy from staff and to create a reputation for being a ‘trooper’ and working while ill.
It ruled: “You went to extraordinary lengths to maintain this deception by claiming to receive treatment, shaving your head and eyebrows, wearing plasters on your face and covering both forearms.
“Your dishonesty was a serious breach of trust and brought your integrity into question.”
Ms James told the panel she was remorseful for lying about having cancer and promised ‘such behaviour will not be repeated’.
She also admitted failing to record lunch-time medications of one patient in September 2013 and incorrect recording of notes of another in November 2013.
After leaving Beach Lawns, she was employed by another care home. A representative of that business told the NMC that Ms James had been trustworthy in ther year she was employed there.
The NMC ruled Ms James’ conduct was a ‘serious departure from the standards expected of a nurse’.
However the panel decided it would not be in the public interest to ban Ms James from working as a nurse forever and instead imposed a six-month suspension, saying her dishonesty came when she was enduring a period of poor health.
No patients were harmed because of Ms James’ action, according to the NMC.