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Police probe watered down morphine incident


Detectives are investigating how bottles of painkilling morphine on a hospital ward were diluted with water, it has been disclosed.

Police were called in after it was suspected that liquid morphine on a surgical ward at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, East Sussex, had been tampered with.

No arrests have been made and the trust which runs the hospital said no patients have been harmed and no further incidents have been reported.

Stricter controls on the storage and dispensing of the drug have been introduced across the hospital following the alert, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust said.

Trust chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “Over the weekend of March 3 and 4, we discovered that on one of our surgical wards at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, a small number of bottles of liquid oral morphine appeared to have been watered down.

“We immediately introduced stricter controls on the storage and administration of oral morphine and the incident has been reported to the police.

“There has been no harm to patients and no further incidents but this is nevertheless a serious matter and until we fully understand the nature and cause, these stricter controls will remain in place across the hospital.”


Readers' comments (12)

  • I wonder how they could tell?

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  • Little One

    I wondered that too Elisabeth.

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  • Our hospital discovered a large bottle of liquid morphine had been replaced with water. It was due to the complaints of palliative care patients who said the morphine wasn't giving them any pain relief. They'd been taking it for quite a while and realised the problem was only apparent after they had been admitted.

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  • when I worked in the NHS opiates were classified as 'controlled drugs' and locked in a special cupboard. the keys were kept at all times on the nurse in charge of the shift. any drugs from this cupboard had to be signed out in a book which was returned to the pharmacy when full new stock was delivered to the ward by the pharmacist and signed for by the key holder. the dosages were prepared and administered to patients in the presence of a second qualified person who countersigned the book. with this system it would be hard to imagine how the drugs could be tampered with although sadly there were one or two incidents of theft and doctor suicide.

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  • Regarding how they knew ,i can only assume patients were complaining that the medication hadn't worked effectively or as well as they were used to? Our morphine was delisted from our schedule and is in with the stock medication it however has to be signed out by one RN and logged on a list with patient details and amount left in stock, however this couldn't account for any replacement of water as has happened in Brighton. Food for thought.

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  • At first I wondered if it was part of the Government austerity measures!

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  • When I trained, any opiates where classified as controlled drugs. During the course of my carrier, it has been declassified in many hospital though some areas still keep it in locked cupboards. I have never really understood how and why it was declassified. Up to now I am still confused.

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  • I suppose they would know by its inefficacy with patients, not having relief from their pain

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  • Perhaps it was because whoever had the CD keys was always asleep!

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  • Let me help you out:

    I would of thought any RGN who regulary gives morphine would notice if it appeared diluted.

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