VIDEO: Tamper arrest nurse stole opiate drugs like Shipman
Published 14/09/2011 | 15:04
A nurse arrested on suspicion of sabotage at a hospital where police are investigating three deaths stole opiate-based drugs - like killer GP Harold Shipman, a disciplinary hearing was told today.
Rebecca Leighton, 27, spent more than six weeks in custody after she was accused of tampering with medical products at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport. Criminal charges against her were dropped on September 2.
But the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NWC), at a hearing to review an interim order suspending her from nursing, was told today that she had admitted stealing tramadol from the hospital.
Salim Hafejee, outlining the case against her, told the panel the reasonable inference was that she was taking the drug for her own use and he cited the case of killer GP Harold Shipman, who was addicted to pethidine, another opiate-based drug.
Mr Hafejee said: "One hesitates to bandy around the name of (Harold) Shipman too regularly but you will be aware of the impact of professional dependency on drugs and the perception that it creates."
Shipman, from nearby Hyde, was convicted in 2000 of murdering 15 of his patients but is believed to have killed many more.
Miss Leighton's lawyer Paul Rooney said there was evidence that the drugs were for personal use.
But Mr Hafejee, outlining the case against her, said Miss Leighton had admitted taking an antibiotic, a box of ibuprofen and the tramadol from the hospital.
Urging the panel not to allow her to return to work even though the sabotage charges have been dropped, he said a letter had been sent to the Nursing and Midwifery Council by a detective superintendent at Greater Manchester Police in which it was stated that she had admitted the thefts.
Mr Hafejee said: "There were admissions to the theft of these items by Miss Leighton but the charge of theft was discontinued on the basis that it was not in the public interest."
While this amounted to a "breach of trust", he said the theft of tramadol, a "dependency-forming" medication, was a "particularly worrying aspect".
Mr Hafejee said: "The theft of anything, including drugs, from a hospital setting where a nurse is in a position of trust, in essence is a breach-of-trust crime and is a serious matter in itself, irrespective of any other aggravating background.
"These drugs are intended for patient use and, in a climate where there are cuts, they are a loss to the NHS."
He told the panel it was likely Miss Leighton had taken the pills herself, casting doubt on her professional ability.
He said: "The reasonable inference at this stage would be that they were taken for her own use."
Detectives are still investigating the suspicious deaths of three of the patients at Stepping Hill amid allegations that saline solution was tampered with.