Feb 27 2013
A nurse cleared over the poisoning deaths of patients at Stepping Hill Hospital has been suspended for three months after she admitted stealing drugs.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel found Rebecca Leighton's fitness to practice 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 chairman 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.