Patients on a hospital stroke unit were drugged with sleeping pills to "keep them quiet and compliant", a jury has been told.
Catherine Hudson, 54, and Charlotte Wilmot, 48, are alleged to have drugged patients on the unit for their “own amusement” and to make "their work less onerous or arduous".
They pair are also said to have targeted some patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital if they disliked them or the patients’ relatives.
Preston Crown Court heard Hudson boasted about sedating one of her alleged victims in a text message to another colleague in which she wrote: “I sedated one of them to within an inch of her life lol. Bet she’s flat for a week haha xxx”.”
The nurses are on trial over the alleged ill-treatment of patients while they were employed as nurses on the unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
One of the sedatives said to have been used was Zopiclone, which is potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately.
Opening the case, prosecutor Peter Wright KC said: "Some patients on the unit, we say, were deliberately doped up with Zopiclone, or other similar sedatives, by certain members of staff in order not to treat them but to keep them quiet and compliant.
"We say the defendants treated patients not with care and compassion but with contempt.
"They considered them, or some of them, to be an imposition, an irritation."
“Patients were ill-treated. They were sedated either for the amusement of these defendants or simply to keep them quiet and to make their life easier, and their work less onerous or arduous.
“The risks to the patients were obvious, but we say they didn’t care.
“They thought it was amusing. It was something which they would brag about or share as a joke on social media and with other members of staff who shared their particular brand of humour.”
He said the defendants “through their own mouths” in those messages had revealed a “culture of abuse” on the unit.
A whistleblowing student nurse brought events she allegedly witnessed while on work placement at the unit to the attention of the authorities in November 2018, the court heard.
Mr Wright said a detailed and lengthy investigation followed into various activities at the hospital, which included an examination of the defendants’ electronic devices.
Preston Crown Court heard Hudson boasted about sedating one of her alleged victims in a text message to another colleague in which she wrote: "I sedated one of them to within an inch of her life lol. Bet she's flat for a week haha xxx"."
A message exchange between Hudson, an experienced Band 5 registered nurse, and Wilmot, a Band 4 assistant practitioner, about an elderly male patient was read to the court.
Hudson wrote: "I'm going to kill bed 5 xxx."
Wilmot replied: "Pmsl (pissing myself laughing) well tonight sedate him to high heaven lol xxx."
Hudson said: "Already in my head to give him double !!"
The next evening Hudson messaged Wilmot: "If bed 5 starts he will b getting sedated to hell pmsfl . I'll get u the abx (anti-biotic) xxx".
Later, Hudson wrote: "I've just sedated him lol he was gearing up to start (laughing emoji) xxx".
Wilmot said: "Pmsl (tablet emoji) praise the lord Xxx".
He said the defendant was covertly recorded in her home as part of the investigation that followed.
Mr Wright said: "In one conversation she said this - which you may think sums up the entirety of this case - 'It's almost like a hidden inside rule that we all have. That we stick together whatever we do.
"'It's just taken to the grave. Take it to the grave - we say that all the time and this stupid f***ing student has spoiled this'."
Hudson, of Coriander Close, Blackpool, denies ill-treating four patients and stealing Mebeverine, a medicine.
Wilmot, of Bowland Crescent, Blackpool, denies encouraging Hudson to sedate one of those patients.
Both defendants have also pleaded not guilty to conspiring to ill-treat another patient.
The alleged ill-treatment offences are said to have taken place between February 2017 and November 2018.