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Leighton speaks of tamper probe ordeal

The nurse who had been accused of tampering with saline solution at a hospital spoke today of her horror at being dubbed an “angel of death” and “killer nurse” by newspapers.

Rebecca Leighton said she was “passionate” about her job and wanted to return to a “normal life” after charges against her were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this month.

“It was hard. I learned, obviously, through what I had been through, not to look too far down the line as to which way my life is going to go,” she told ITV1’s This Morning.

“I just had that little bit of faith that this is going to end and it has got to end because surely they have got to realise at some point that it is not me.”

Miss Leighton was speaking in her first interview after being charged in July with contaminating saline solution at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

The 27-year-old spent more than six weeks in custody but was dramatically freed on 2 September after proceedings against her were discontinued.

Last week she was cleared to return to work by the Nursing and Midwifery Council subject to conditions, despite admitting to the theft of opiate-based drugs.

But she remains suspended on full pay by while inquiries continue into allegations that she stole medication.

Readers' comments (19)

  • I think this was the most disgusting case of trial by media, and although I normally abhor the response of suing, I hope she takes the media, and the NMC, possibly even the police for false arrest or whatever, for every penny she can get, because her career has been irreparably damaged over this. I hope she takes that money and lives a long, happy life away from all this.

    And this pathetic accusation of 'theft' is completely uncalled for and smacks of the usual NMC witch hunt to me.

    She is showing a lot more dignity and pride than I think I could muster in these circumstances though, so good on her for that. I don't think I could be so forgiving.

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  • Couldn’t agree more, Mike. The reality is that this girl will never be able to work again as a nurse and her photographs and this story will remain forever in the Ether. Absolutely appalling the whole thing. I feel so sorry for her.

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  • Rebecca's career and reputation are damaged forever sadly, because as we all know, mud sticks. Trial by media for sure. Sue their arses off Rebecca.

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  • As I said, I hope she screws every last penny out of all of them, but I also hope that this forces a serious look at exactly how Nurses can be accused, witch hunted and victimised by the NMC, the media and the public at large even if entirely innocent. Entire lives and careers are being ruined because there is a complete lack of anonymity, and a prevailing paradigm of guilty until we can find something to stick on you. Its a piss take, and the NMC should be finally held to account for its part in it too!

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  • IS the NMC fit for purpose???? I'm appalled by this nurses plight! The NMC should be disbanded and another organisation that actually supports nurses and the public be put in it's place. I have lost all confidence in this so called register of nurses and midwives because as we now know, it has been set up to support the NHS corporate bigwigs and not the public at all. Where is the person who actually murdered those 3 patients??? I haven't heard anymore about it, why is that? Is it perhaps a member of the public who tampered with the saline? Is it perhaps someone at the manufacturers of the Saline that tampered with the saline before it was bagged and sealed? These are the sorts of questions I was expecting the media to be asking not unduly trying Rebecca Leighton by Media justice!!! She can never work again as a nurse and if I were in her shoes, I would get myself an excellent Human Resources Lawyer and a Media/PR lawyer and sue them for ruining her reputation and her career!!!

    But what I will say to the young lady is that sometimes these experiences as teeth shattering as they are, are a wake up call to move in a different direction and I wish her all the best with her future and hope she doesn't allow it to tarnish the good times ahead!

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  • Stephen Cameron

    Are forgetting the fact that she has stolen controlled drugs by her own admission so regardless of the saline case being dropped she has brought the profession into disrepute and should no longer be practicing as a nurse any yet the NMC has given her registration back to her? Seems they did that for all the wrong reasons. I dont think the media had the right to do what they did but this nurse is not completely innocent in the whole affair and sould just leave it at that maybe the six weeks in jail would have been justified for the correct offence?

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  • Stephen Cameron

    Oh wait it was tramadol she stole not a controlled drug i withdraw my comments about te jail time

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  • My sympathies are with the nurse. However, I will not be surprised to see her being sacked for thefts of POMs. Probably this would be justified. She could - perhaps should - be struck off for the crime to which she has confessed.

    But the role of the press has to be questioned and if she wins compensation then that would also be fair.

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  • Stephen Cameron | 21-Sep-2011 12:44 pm

    What a ray of sunshine you are, I hope you‘re never wrongly accused of something! Just for the record, Rebecca Leighton may have been returned to the register, but is only allowed to work at the hospital that she has been suspended from and her practice is limited to that of basically a HCA.

    With regard to the stealing of medication, I think the only reason that this has come to light is because Rebecca cooperated fully with the police and told the truth. Having realised that they had the wrong man, the police, the Trust and the NMC had to search for something in which to justify their heavy handed approach to this poor lass and the ‘theft’ of medication fit that bill. Talking of taking medication, how many staff have taken the odd couple of Paracetamol or Ibuprofen when your bad back is playing up or you have a headache? If every nurse who had done this was subjected to the treatment this lass has, then I fear there would be very few nurses still on the register.

    Innocent until proven guilty, haha!

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  • The CPS/Police do not have enough evidence to get a conviction in Court so what happens in this sort of case is that the CPS allows the NMC to run with the case as the burden of proof is far lower with the outcome generally being that the registrant is struck off without becoming a direct burden to the State/Criminal Justice system through having to do time in jail.

    A very close friend of mine was struck off as a result of not being able to prove their innocence more than a decade after the alleged incident on the basis that "it probably happened". The NMC's "evidence" would never have been reliable in Court.

    The time lapse was due to a late complaint being presented (around ten years later) and the NMC taking five years to process it.

    That alone proves that the NMC is not fit for purpose.

    I have every sympathy for the way Rebecca has been treated by the media and I hope that she wins similar damages to those received by Christopher Jefferies who was demonised by the media as the landlord of murdered Jo Yeates in Bristol. The media has to be made more accountable for this type of trial by media.

    At Stephen Cameron. Tramadol is not currently a controlled drug in the UK, and in connection with that we see that the NMC lawyer makes a comparison with the opioid dependent Harold Shipman. There is no clear evidence that Tramadol has any dependence forming issues, so once again the NMC is shown up as a gravy train for fools and incompetents. I wonder how Rebecca felt being compared to the worst serial killer the UK has ever produced?

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  • @ Stephen Cameron. Apology accepted. Unfortunately I was researching my reply to your point (no dig intended) so did not notice your retraction.

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  • Even NT in their headline shows such lack of respect - Leighton speaks of tamper probe ordeal! Im sure she will come out of this with significant compensation after trial by media but how do you live with the knowledge that you have been branded as a murderer despite no proof and no charges. Her whole career as a nurse destroyed and what ever she chooses to do in the future her name will be synonymous with the Stepping Hill deaths.
    Good luck for the future Rebecca !

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  • "Leighton speaks of tamper probe ordeal"

    Even the way that header is worded screams "tabloid trash". The reason why headlines have developed in this way is because in the bad old days before the internet, editors had to compete for readership with punchy headlines that fitted in with their typeset for printing purposes. With the 21st century technology that we have the NT journalists have no reason to stoop to the gutter level of their journalistic cousins who just recently have had a lot of problems keeping their own house in order.

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  • Innocent until proven guilty, where is this place then?

    Certainly not in the UK legal system or media areas.

    I hope this woman takes the hospital, the police, the NMC, the press and anyone else she can to the cleaners and back again.

    Talk about a life in ruins, so exactly what is being done to find the real culprit??

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  • Whilst being interviewed on the TV programme 'This Morning ' it was mentioned that there was an ongoing investigation taking place regarding Rebecca having stolen whole boxes of Tramadol, Ibuprofen and also antibiotics. Not just the odd Paracetamol for a headache.

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  • I thought stealing was a sackable offence and, what's more, is against the law in the UK?

    If someone steals from their employer whilst on duty, will it stop there? Surely we have to protect the interests of the patients in that person's care?

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  • I totally agree about the sentiments expressed about theft, but there is a question of proportionality here. Do you think the way in which she has been vilified by the press, having been likened to Harold Shipman, is proportionate to the crime of stealing a box antibiotics and some painkillers? Maybe I’m too soft, but I think the way in which she has been treated is absolutely abhorrent!

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  • Hold on a minute, noone even knows for definite IF she has stolen anything, or even WHAT, so it is all conjecture at this point. And the media have hardly shown a fair impartial hand so far have they? For example, how many of you have given a paracetamol to a colleague with a headache out of stock so that they can carry on working? In my eyes that is not theft, it is looking after your staff, but in the trusts it is. They are wrong. I suspect that is what has happened here, or something similar, and the trust and the NMC are homing in on any excuse to witchunt and vilify her to justify their heavy handed actions. Anonymous | 22-Sep-2011 10:30 am and others are right. The way she has been treated is horrific, and as I said earlier, this should now be forcing serious questions to be asked about exactly how Nurses can be accused, witch hunted and victimised by the NMC, the media and the public at large even if entirely innocent. Entire lives and careers are being ruined because there is a complete lack of anonymity, and a prevailing paradigm of guilty until we can find something to stick on you. It is wrong.

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  • Perhaps one of these Government e-petitions needs to be set up questioning the NMC's own fitness to practice. A couple of years ago it was lambasted in Parliament for its institutional bullying - nothing appears to be improving in either the way it appears to be run or how it deals with the interests of those it purports to support.

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