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NMC hands Rebecca Leighton three month suspension


A nurse cleared over the fatal poisoning of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital has been suspended for three months after she admitted stealing drugs.

An NMC panel found Rebecca Leighton’s fitness to practise impaired following a disciplinary hearing in which she suggested staff habitually took medication from the premises.

Ms Leighton, 29, sobbed gently as the panel, sitting in London, said the “relatively short” suspension would be the best course of action as she had shown remorse, had done the best to atone for actions and was unlikely to repeat her misconduct. Colleagues also had confidence in her as a nurse, it noted.

Panel chair 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”.

Ms Leighton spent six weeks in jail when she was arrested in connection with the deaths on the acute care wards of the Stockport hospital in 2011 but was released when prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence against her.

The police investigation revealed she had removed packets of painkillers and opiate-based drugs from the hospital. She admitted taking the medicine, which was discovered in her bedroom.

A total of 22 people suffered hypoglycaemic episodes between June and July 2011 at Stepping Hill after their saline drips were allegedly sabotaged with insulin.

Eight of them - all of whom were being treated on acute care wards for seriously ill patients - have now died.

The panel said it was impressed by the “robust portfolio” of information Ms Leighton presented to show her continuing dedication to the profession.

It included evidence of academic learning, testimonials and signs that she had gained a “significant insight into her misconduct”, Ms Hurds said.

It was also noted that Ms Leighton had “the most difficult of personal circumstances” but she did not try to cover up her actions which brought the profession into disrepute. In fact she co-operated with the investigation.

Her colleagues are “accepting her for her ability and not judging her for her past” and they have “confidence and trust” in her, the panel heard.

During her disciplinary hearing, Ms Leighton claimed staff would take drugs such as the painkiller ibuprofen from the hospital, sometimes for use during their holidays in “case of emergencies”.

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.”

Paul Rooney, for Ms Leighton, told the hearing the nurse admitted the allegations against her which related to seven drugs, including the opiate-based tramadol capsules which she is accused of supplying or intending to supply.

He said: “Ms Leighton accepts that these charges amount to misconduct and further accepts that by that misconduct, she has brought the profession into disrepute and therefore her current fitness to practise is impaired.”

When questioned, Ms Leighton said she took ibuprofen for a sore throat and the antibiotics to treat the onset of tonsillitis, which she believed would prevent her from having to take time off work, the panel heard.

She thought she was entitled to remove the drugs for her own use but conceded the medication was not prescribed to her, Mr Hoskins said.

Interviews with other members of staff employed by the hospital appeared to contradict her suggestion that taking drugs from Stepping Hill Hospital was commonplace.

An investigation by the trust revealed only two employees were aware of the alleged practice but they claimed it was limited to paracetamol and did not extend to prescription drugs, the hearing was told.






Readers' comments (10)

  • Spineless NMC.

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  • Sineless NMC

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  • Why would she even WANT to continue in nursing after all that?

    I'm surprised anyone wants to be a nurse anymore!

    Given cases such as this and the news that the unions are allowing further attacks on already beaten pay and conditions, they wonder why they are facing a nursing shortage?

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  • Are you still paying during a 3-month suspension? where you aren't licenced to practice and cannot use your 'suspended' registration?
    The trust / staff are going to deny that there isn't anything else happening there. Will there be investigations into those allegations?
    Also if staff feel that they have to take medications to keep them well and working, what does that tell us about the pressures staff face there?
    Has the trust there done anything to support + educate staff before, during + after this case?

    I agree, with comments above, why would someone come into the nursing profession to be treated like poo (which may have lead to this sorry situation) and have the privilege of paying £100 to the NMC each year.

    Finally, I've not heard or seen anything substantial about "the 22 people suffered hypoglycaemic episodes between June and July 2011 at Stepping Hill after their saline drips were allegedly sabotaged with insulin."
    So who if anyone did it, was it really sabotaged, why they haven't reported/proceeded in getting justice for patients who have been allegedly killed.
    It doesn't look like Rebecca Leighton did it.
    Maybe working with much less stress now.

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  • john warwick

    so according to the NMC if I am an admitted THIEF and a JUNKIE then I am fit to be a nurse , I wonder would it have been any differant if she had not been white ?

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  • She was lucky to have support of confidence from her colleagues when she dobbed them in for also taking drugs from the ward! Having said that I think she is good sister material and it would be a shame to loose her experience. I think the NMC realized this. Also did she not sue the police for false imprisonment?

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  • I agree with all the above apart from John Warwick (PLEASE! Have you go an enormous chip on your shoulder!) I would NEVER advise any young person to go into nursing. Rebecca Leighton has been hung out to dry and put through hell for doing nothing more than taking pain killers from stock, which I no from experience most staff with access to mild to moderate analgesia and first line anti biotics do when needed, mostly to keep themselves working.
    Last Sunday afternoon when taking over from a GP in the local out of hours, I noticed that he had trimethoprim and co-codamol in his bag from stock for his wife who had a uti and back pain. The clinical lead had ibuprofen for her shoulder; and gave a receptionist co-codamol from stock for her problem.
    I have been given diclofenac suppositories from stock by a medical colleague in ED when I was off after a hysterectomy. It IS common practice in all the places I have worked; the police had to have a scapegoat and if they could'nt pin the original offence on Rebecca they had to look hard to find something else on her to look as though their time wasnt wasted, and she was the unfortunate one that got caught.
    And the NMC, righteous pillars of virtue that they are, continued with their onslaught on this unfortunate nurse. I hope she now wins the lottery and can stick two fingers up to nursing.

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  • When I was first aider at work I was allowed to administer simple analgesia, effectively as a PGD, under the H&SAW First Aid regulations, with my company's blessing and at their expense.

    As a staff nurse I am not allowed to do this for either myself or a colleague as it is seen as theft, yet NHS trusts as employers still have the same responsibility towardfs their employess under the H&SAW Act and associated regulations, crown immunity being abolished in 1986 for food safety and H&S legislation in the NHS.

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  • even their loo paper used to have government property stamped on every sheet. what were you meant to do about that?

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  • Hurrah for Rebecca. John warwick- perhaps she could have played the race card if she wasn't white, fool.

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