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'Staff need to be clear about what constitutes theft'

  • Comments (20)

Most parents will have experienced that terrible moment when their first born child comes home from nursery school with a piece of logo or a Playmobile man tucked into a pocket. Did they put it there by accident or did they steal it? What do you do?

Life doesn’t get less complicated.

Last week I was talking to an NHS manager about fraud in the NHS and we got onto the topic of taking 2 paracetamol out of the drug trolley if you had a headache. Is it theft? Is it only theft if you do it without permission? Is it theft if sister says it’s OK? Or is it just stealing whatever way you look at it?

Some trusts advise wards can keep their own supply of paracetamol for use by staff but this has to be purchased independently at the discretion of the ward sister.

So, even though there is a cupboard full of analgesia, if you have a headache you need to ask someone if they have got a couple pain killers in their hand bag. Wards should also have their own first aid kits for staff to use.

Is this silly? I don’t think it is.

In the past there was a culture that assumed NHS property could be used by NHS staff; the odd paracetamol or bandage wouldn’t be missed. This has been extremely unhelpful. What if it’s not a paracetamol,  but ibuprofen or codeine or a replacement for an empty inhaler. Staff need to be clear about what constitutes theft - otherwise they put their job and professional life on the line.

So here are three more dilemmas:

  1. While you are locking up your bike outside the hospital you cut your finger. Can you nip into the clean utility room and grab a plaster out of the ward supply?
  2. You miss your tea break at 2am because someone had a cardiac arrest. Can you make a slice of toast using the ward’s supply of bread before you get on with the drug round?
  3. You discharge 10 patients before lunch and there is loads of food left over on the trolley. Can you put some on one side for your break?

What do you think?

  • Comments (20)

Readers' comments (20)

  • Anonymous

    !. Yes of course you'd get a dressing - what's the alternative? Drip blood all over the place, risk infection for yourself and/or the patients?

    2 & 3. Providing alternative food can be sourced (ie. shop or canteen), no.

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  • Anonymous

    What about the theft from staff by trusts? What about the huge sums of money wasted on harebrained schemes. All the missed meal breaks, time owing but never able to take back? Staying on after end of shift. No overtime payments etc etc etc. The list is endless. I for one would not feel guilty about taking bread for a slice of toast if,as can be assumed, I probably wouldn't have had anything to eat or drink all shift then expected to conduct a drug round safely with my blood sugar in my boots at 4am. This sort of thing would not be tolerated by prisoners in jail! There would be rioting. Get a grip.

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  • Anonymous

    Gerry Robinson had a sensible approach to this area in his program about care homes, the staff made toast for themselves while on a long shift so the owners had locked up the bread. He told the owners that it was such a small thing that it was wrong of them to loose the good will of the staff over it. Rather than leave this as a grey area there should be a policy in place to say what is and is not available to staff or at least someone with the clear authority to ask so that there is no excuse for taking things without consent.

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  • I think this is bloody ridiculous! I would rather a member of staff grab a couple of paracetamol from the trolley rather than them being unable to perform their duties to the best of their ability and even potentially removing a member of staff from the team!!! If a Nurse gets a headache and cannot function, a couple of paracetamol will sort it out and they can carry on. What is the alternative, they can't carry on and go home? I know its a very basic example but it works. What about the cost of getting an agency/bank to replace them? Is that better than the cost of a couple of cheap stock medication? It is not like we are talking CDs or prescribed drugs here is it?

    As others above me have rightly said, what about the goodwill and wellbeing of the staff? Shouldn't staff be looked after as well as the patients? What about all the unpaid hours/missed breaks/extra jobs we do for no extra pay?

    Little things like this ARE NOT THEFT!!! These petty, pathetic trusts should grow the hell up and stop accusing good Staff Nurses of what is a very serious crime, before they lose what very little good will they have left.

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  • Anonymous

    I agree with all that is said above. But maybe because there is such a lot of difference of what is acceptable and what isnt, there should be a standardisation of what is acceptable and allowed ie a dose of paracetamol and or ibuprofen. but anything stronger has to there own medication. I say this to stop nurses who are dishonest or have a addiction knowing what is right and wrong. so if they then take codeine or tramadol for example they cant say oh i didnt know, or i take these normally. It protects the majority of genuine honest nurses that do need the odd headache tablet. Sad to say but you have to cover your back all the time, but at least everybody knows where the boundries are.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Sep-2011 7:12 pm I agree, but the thing is, all this could be avoided completely if the management showed a bit of common sense, a trait that is sorely lacking in the upper echelons of the NHS.

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  • Anonymous

    The problem I find is that scenarios above happen a lot so yes I would be inclined to agree with above coments. However scenario 3 is a fundamental floor of all wards. We are currently trialing cook as you need food which can be prepared 15 mins before required to address this issue. This would seem a common sense approach to this problem. But as with all scenarios and situations like this someone has to take advantage and spoil it for the rest of the staff. I used to work with a nurse who never brought food and would pilfer the cupboards at night. So the cupboards were locked and all food no matter how small was sighned in and out! So if scenario 2 happened and you missed the canteen opening as some poor sole was arresting tough! But that was all down to one particular nurse and the next time I worked with her and this happened I didn't share my jellies!!! and yes she sulked!

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  • Now lets be sensible here....really!( Im writing this with two slices of bread in one pocket, a box of bandaids in the other pocket, and my panadol stuck in my bra!!)
    2. Missing a break due to any ward problem should be half an hours pay by law into my wage packet....Missing my "MEAL break to eat is negligant if you do not have the availability to food on a shift .
    How much is 2 slices of toast and jam as opposed to claiming the 30 min meal break??
    1, Cutting my finger in the hospital park....you are on hospital property and therefore did the injury at work I would have said.
    The hospital has a DUTY of CARE to you.
    No bandaid/ cleaning. Go home off sick!
    3. No you cannot...However there MUST be the time and food availability elsewhere for you.
    There will ALWAYS be staff that do the wrong thing and take what they should not, but these senarios are just about staff care.( No 3 is dodgy even here )
    Talk about looking after nurses that already give their absolute blood sweat and tears.
    How many nurses work already sick.....yep you can relate!
    There is a huge line between a nurse that wants something to help her get through a shift and to someone who is really stealing.
    Look after your nurses!!

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  • Eileen Shepherd your article is not only ignorant but also offensive.

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  • tinkerbell

    Heaven help us all. I have 'stolen' a jam sandwich i admit, and a roast potato that was going in the pig bin, oh and a couple of parsnips, and also a jacket potato that i put to one side and ate 3 hours later cos that was also going to go in the bin, oh and a spoonful of custard i scrapped and licked out of the serving bowl, oh and made plates of toast for the staff on their breaks, with marmite. Sometimes i sniff the cadburys hot chocolate tin and ask others to sniff it too, smells gorgeous. I'm not sure what to do with myself now, should i take myself off to the local jam sandwich police station and say i want 50 other sandwich cases taken into consideration. An army marches on its stomach, i see my colleagues at work as that army, if i am about to have a hypo i will have a sugar sandwich rather than faint on the floor. We do have access to a canteen whilst on duty but do not get a long enough break to get there and back and shove something down our throats to eat within 20 minutes, we can only gaze at it longingly and those lucky, lucky people sitting down relaxing, eating a meal. I also take food into work with me but sometimes it is not enough to sustain my energy levels throughout the day and a jam sandwich hits the spot. If someone cut there finger i would get them a plaster from our supply, absolutely. I once reported myself, after being reported by someone else who needs to get out more, for eating the scraps off the trolley, not realising that i also had custard all over my uniform where i'd missed my mouth gulping it down before handing myself in. She put her hand in the air and said 'i don't care so long as i don't see you doing it'. Good old girl she was. So guilty as charged.

    I also told all the staff who did a sleepover during the bad weather, snow, that they could go to the canteen and get a free meal, the canteen would not agree, so i said i would pay for it. My matron also said she would pay for it if necessary. These nurses also worked the next shift for staff that couldn't get in, some didn't get home for 2 days. This myth that nurses don't need food or water to complete a shift without dropping must stop. I wouldn't mind paying into a kitty or something for my jam sandwich, if needed. The we could eat it without all the angst. I also sit the housekeepers down for a cup of tea and a slice of toast at the weekend, agency staff are involved in this wickedness also. I even sit with my patients and eat my sandwich. I always tell the staff if you get caught it's nothing to do with me, though of course i know they would say i told them to do it and tell them to try not to choke as we eat the delight like a pack of ravaged wolves. I really can't be doing with this, so i will continue to encourage my staff to take their breaks, sit down with a cup of tea and marmite on toast and take the consequences at my trial. I fully admit that i am being a bad role model, and morally bakrupt on the marmalade sandwich front. The patients are never left out of the jam sandwich picnic as i shout out who else wants one? The condemned man ate a hearty meal of jam sandwich. I think i know the difference between a jam sandwich and stealing meds from the drug trolley.There aren't many perks to this job apart from our jam sandwich. There is always paracetamol available amongst the staff who bring in their own supply, we have enough ailments amongst us to keep 29 doctors in full time employment. I think there must be something intrinsically wrong with an employer if we cannot offer another person in pain some paracetamol, and as a last resort from the meds trolley, if that's all that's available. I understand that any system can be abused, has been abused and we are responsible and accountable and everything else that goes with the territory, but we are not all drug addled opiate addicts, just jam/marmite/marmalade (as a last resort fish paste urgh) sandwich addicts.

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