A NURSE who was caught on CCTV stealing and swigging bottles of painkillers from a Children’s ward has been struck off the nursing register.
Laura Howe, from Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire was caught on CCTV in 2018 consuming liquid codeine while on duty at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
The paediatric nurse was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work after she admitted to “theft and exposing to or supplying an adulterated medical product” at Newcastle Crown Court in 2019.
Following an investigation by the Nursing And Midwifery Council (NMC) last week,
the 33-year-old has now been removed from the nursing register.
They issued Howe, also known as Laura Cooper, with an interim suspension order for 18 months, meaning she cannot practise during that time, even if she was to appeal.
The NMC decided to hold the two day hearing in private last week, meaning no members of the public or media could be present.
However, the decision was only made public on their website yesterday.
The panel decided that Howe’s fitness to practise is impaired due to her previous conviction relating to the CCTV footage.
The NMC panel said: “The charges arose whilst you were employed as a registered nurse on the children’s paediatric ward at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital by The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“Between October 2016 and March 2018 a discrepancy was uncovered in relation to the stock levels of codeine on the ward.
“It was found that the liquid codeine stock levels were unaccountably diminishing on a regular basis and the liquid codeine appeared diluted.
“CCTV was installed in the medicines administration room as part of the investigation into this.
“Over a two week period this showed that you were taking and consuming codeine and Oramorph and were tampering with the codeine by way of diluting the remaining contents.”
Howe was arrested on 14 March 2018 and self-referred herself to the NMC six days later.
NMC Case presenter Michael Smalley said during the hearing that “there are some forms of behaviour which are so serious that they cannot be remedied and that this case fell into this category.”
He added: “Members of the public would be horrified by your actions in that over the course of a year you stole medication meant for children, you covered this up by doctoring medication and thereby placed a significant number of patients at a risk of harm.”
On making their decision, the NMC panel said: “The panel found that patients were put at risk of unwarranted harm as a result of the conduct which led to your conviction.
The panel considered that your behaviour had breached the fundamental tenets of the nursing profession and therefore brought its reputation into disrepute.
“The panel noted that you are remorseful for your conduct and have clearly reflected on the events which led to your conviction.
“The panel was satisfied that your fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of your conviction.”
Staff at the Royal Victoria Infirmary became suspicious in July 2017 after a nurse noticed that the liquid codeine was not as thick as it usually was.
Three bottles were removed from the ward and tested for their potency.
Results showed that the strength of the medicine, which is usually close to 100 per cent, was 71 per cent, 45 per cent and 25 per cent.
New bottles were installed on the ward and tested for their strength, which was 100 percent.
A further test on the liquid codeine in March 2018 showed the strength had again reduced.
Due to this, CCTV cameras were installed to find out what was going on.
Howe was then caught on camera swigging from the bottle of painkillers before diluting it with water.
She also later confessed to consuming liquid morphine, Oramorph while on shift.
The court heard how Howe had been taking the medication to ease her mental health issues which she developed after being diagnosed with leukaemia when she was eight years old.
Howe managed to dodge jail time and admitted theft and an offence under the Medicines Act.