Nurse claims staff 'took drugs from hospital'

Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport
Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport Photo: PA Wire

A nurse cleared over the poisoning deaths of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital in Greater Manchester has claimed staff habitually took drugs from the premises in "case of emergencies" during their holidays.

Rebecca Leighton, 29, spent six weeks in jail after she was arrested over the deaths but was released when prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence against her.

However, she was sacked for theft after police investigating the deaths found packets of painkillers and opiate-based drugs at her home.

Rebecca Leighton pictured in 2011
Rebecca Leighton pictured in 2011 Credit: PA Archive

On Monday she admitted removing the medication from the hospital in Stockport and conceded that her fitness to practice was impaired. During police interviews, she claimed staff regularly took drugs such as the painkiller ibuprofen for their own use, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) disciplinary panel was told.

Tom Hoskins, for the NMC, said: "She said that if the police were to search any number of employees from Stepping Hill Hospital, a random person, they would find them also in possession of such tablets."

He added: "The registrant accepts she had removed them and indicated that a lot of other people at the hospital engaged in the same enterprise, talking about an example where a member of staff would go on holiday and would take the drugs with them in case of emergencies."

A total of 22 people suffered hypoglycaemic episodes after saline drips were allegedly sabotaged with insulin between June and July 2011 at Stepping Hill. Eight of these victims - all of whom were being treated on acute care wards for seriously ill patients - have now died.

A second nurse who worked on the same wards, Victorino Chua, was later held on suspicion of three counts of murder and 18 counts of causing grievous bodily harm. He was further arrested on suspicion of tampering with medical records and has been released on police bail.

Chua was held over the deaths of Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, and Derek Weaver, 83. Alleged poisoning victims William Dickson, 82, Linda McDonagh, 60, John Beeley, 73, Beryl Hope, 70, and Mary Cartwright, 89, are believed to have eventually died from natural causes.

Paul Rooney, for Ms Leighton, told the hearing the nurse admitted the allegations against her which relate to seven drugs, including Tramadol capsules which she is accused of supplying or intending to supply. Ms Leighton faces being struck off following the hearing, which is due to last three days.