Rebecca Leighton: Nurse suspended for stealing drugs

Rebecca Leighton
Image caption Rebecca Leighton admitted removing medication

A nurse cleared of poisoning patients at a hospital has been suspended for three months after admitting taking drugs from the site.

The decision came after a three-day disciplinary hearing for Rebecca Leighton, 29, who worked at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

She has been suspended from nursing by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Ms Leighton spent six weeks in jail but was freed as there was not enough evidence against her.

Panel chairman Susan Hurds said: "We are satisfied that Ms Leighton has learned a tremendous amount from the experience and we are satisfied she would not repeat her actions."

The disciplinary panel found that she was "not fundamentally dishonest" and had worked hard to mediate her conduct since the incident.

Ms Hurds said she had sought no intentional financial benefit and had a "previously unblemished nursing career".

She was questioned in 2011 by police investigating the poisoning of 22 patients, eight of whom died.

The charges were later dropped but she admitted stealing drugs and medicines from the hospital. Police found packets of painkillers and opiate-based drugs at her home.

'Trustworthy and reliable'

She is currently working at a care home in Stockport.

Sue Jackson, who runs the care home, told the hearing she has known Ms Leighton since she was a teenager and took her on after she was sacked from Stepping Hill.

She said Ms Leighton had been trustworthy, reliable, creative and caring in the six months she has worked at the home.

Ms Jackson added Ms Leighton had thought seriously about her actions and deeply regretted them.

The hearing was told that during police interviews, Ms Leighton claimed staff regularly took drugs such as the painkiller ibuprofen for their own use.

Her claim was rejected by Stockport NHS Foundation Trust.

It said: "We totally refute the false allegations, which were raised at the hearing, about the habitual theft of drugs by staff from our premises.

"These unfounded allegations were immediately investigated by our organisation as soon as they were raised at Miss Leighton's original disciplinary hearing in November 2011.

"The investigation found no evidence to back them up."

Patient deaths

Twenty-two people suffered hypoglycaemic episodes after saline drips were allegedly sabotaged with insulin between June and July 2011 at Stepping Hill.

Eight of these victims - who were 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.

Mr 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.

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