Nurse took elderly patient’s pills to feed her painkiller habit

Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.
Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.
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A TRUSTED nurse’s painkiller habit was exposed after an elderly patient’s medication was found in her locker.

Staff nurse Emma Marshall was seen acting “suspiciously” before the man’s morphine was found in her locker by her colleagues at Sunderland Royal Hospital, after he had been admitted with chest pains.

These proceedings are nothing less than a personal tragedy.

As a result of the find on January 24 last year, police raided her home and more of the Class A drug was found.

The 36-year-old, of Beechbrook, Ryhope, Sunderland, had denied knowing anything about the medication when she was confronted at the hospital.

She went on to claim she had been diagnosed with post natal depression and planned to use the pills to kill herself.

Investigations revealed colleagues had previously been suspicious when Marshall requested access to opiate-based painkillers, and had even asked one fellow nurse over Facebook if she could borrow medication.

Prosecutor Christopher Rose told Newcastle Crown Court: “The only inference that can be drawn is that through the course of 2013 to early 2014 she was self administering opiate-based painkillers, including morphine, and what occurred on January 24 was her seeking to obtain such painkillers.”

Marshall pleaded guilty to two charges of possession of morphine.

A charge of theft in relation to the patient’s pills was left to lie on file.

The family of the man whose medication went missing told police they feel the trust they placed in the nursing staff that day was abused.

The court heard mum-of-two Marshall qualified as a nurse 14 years ago and has been a respected professional since.

Her barrister David Combe, said: “These proceedings are nothing less than a personal tragedy.

“She was looking forward to a lifetime of what is generally regarded as hard, but modestly-paid work.

“She attracted admiration of some of her senior colleagues for the way she approached her work, because she did difficult tasks nurses are required to perform on difficult wards without complaint and without shirking.

“It does appear to be her personal problems coincided with the birth of her first child and with the difficulties she experienced in coping with motherhood, which appear to have been compounded by her return to work and the pressures that are inevitable in the role she had. She now has the vocation that she loved in tatters.”

The court heard Marshall’s case will be referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council where she will almost inevitably be struck off.

Mr Recorder Reid sentenced her to three months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with supervision.

The judge said references from medics who have known the nurse throughout her career have described her as “professional, caring, effervescent in personality, loyal, kind considerate”.

Colleages said “patient welfare was at the heart of her care”.

The judge told her: “You clearly have a problem which has to be addressed.

“I appreciate this case has been devastating for you. It has rightly been described as a tragedy.”

A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland said: “We support the judgement and would like to apologise to any patients or members of staff who have been affected by this case.

“Fortunately this is an isolated incident and we have the fullest confidence in the professionalism and dedication of trust staff – they do their jobs under great pressure, and have a reputation throughout the service for the quality and compassion they bring to their work.”