A NURSE who ordered two “vulnerable” patients with “serious mental health problems” to perform naked squats has been suspended for six months.

Joe Apeaning was working as an acting charge nurse at The Spinney in Atherton at the time of the incidents in 2015.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing last year heard an incident in which two patients, known as Patient A and Patient B in the report, were suspected of taking cannabis on June 26, 2015.

Patient A tested negative for the drug but Patient B tested positive.

Searches of their patients’ bedrooms and “rub down tests”, which involves patting down the clothed body, emptying of the patients’ pockets and the removal of their shoes, were also carried out.

Apeaning then ordered body searches without obtaining permission from his ward manager.

During the searches, he told his colleague, referred to as Colleague A in the hearing report, to touch Patient A’s testicles. He also told Patient A to squat while he was naked.

In his search of Patient B, he interrogated him as he was squatting naked.

He was suspended from work that day and dismissed from his position 11 days later.

The NMC panel decided that the strip searches were carried out “when it was not proportionate to do so”.

There were also other charges in April and May 2015 in which Apeaning secluded patients but did not record the reasons for his decisions on his clinical notes.

Despite the charges being proved the panel decided that no action should be taken against him after hearing that his work prior to the incidents in 2015 had been “exemplary”.

References from his new employer also backed up claims that his performance had returned to a high standard.

The panel concluded that Apeaning’s fitness to practise was “not currently impaired on wider public interest grounds”.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appealed the decision in November at the High Court where Mrs Justice O’Farrell “found that the previous panel failed to have due regard to the seriousness of the misconduct and the public interest”.

A new NMC panel was subsequently assembled and heard the case earlier this month, on July 12 and 13.

Members considered Apeaning’s inexperience after only being promoted to the position of acting charge nurse two weeks before the incident.

They also heard glowing testimonies from his nursing colleagues and about the training he has undertaken in areas of public misconduct.

The report states: “The panel considered that you had clearly breached a fundamental tenet of the profession.

“The patients in your care were vulnerable and deserved to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

“The panel decided that a six-month suspension order is appropriate and is the least restrictive order necessary in this case.

“The purpose of this sanction is to mark the seriousness of this misconduct and the fact that it must not be repeated.

“The panel was satisfied that the suspension order will satisfy the public interest in this case and will maintain public confidence in the profession as well as the NMC as the regulator.”

Apeaning will be able to go back to work after the order without a review.