A senior nurse needlessly sedated patients to give herself an "easy" shift, a court heard.
Catherine Hudson, 54, has now been convicted for her actions on the stroke unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital between 2017 and 2018.
Preston Crown Court also heard how assistant practitioner Charlotte Wilmot, 48, encouraged Hudson to carry out the dangerous behaviour in vile text messages. In one Wilmot said: "Pmsl well tonight sedate him to high heaven lol." In another, Hudson wrote: "I'm going to kill bed 5."
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Police were first called when a whistleblowing student nurse on a work placement said Hudson suggested administering non-prescribed Zopiclone, a sleeping pill, to a patient. The student nurse was further troubled when Hudson commented: "Well she’s got a DNAR (do not attempt resuscitation) in place so she wouldn’t be opened up if she died or like if it came to any harm."
The court heard how restrictions on drugs were so lax in the stroke unit that staff would self-medicate or steal drugs to supply to others. A number of staff members were arrested during the investigation, and prosecutors said a "culture of abuse" was revealed on the unit when police examined WhatsApp phone messages between the co-defendants and other members of staff.
Hudson wrote about one of her victims: "I sedated one of them to within an inch of her life lol. Bet she’s flat for a week haha xxx." Experts told the court how non-prescribed sedatives could be life-threatening, particularly to elderly patients.
Giving evidence, the defendants claimed the private messages were "banter" and not supposed to be taken seriously. They said the "gallows humour" was the venting of their frustrations at working in a chronically understaffed unit.
At an earlier hearing, Hudson pleaded guilty to conspiring with other colleagues to steal drugs and also a further offence of perverting the course of justice. Wilmot also pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal medication.
Following a trial Hudson was found guilty of three counts of ill-treatment and one count of conspiracy to ill-treat, while Wilmot was found guilty of conspiracy to ill-treat and encouraging Hudson to sedate a patient. Both will be sentenced at a later date.
Lancashire Police Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston said: "This was a complete abuse of their position of trust – trust that the victims and their families had, expecting them to be looked after and made to feel safe. The reality was sadly quite the opposite.
"Hudson and Wilmot treated the patients without care or compassion, laughing when they came to harm and drugging them to keep them quiet so that they could have an easy shift.
"The risks associated with these callous acts were obvious – inappropriately sedating elderly stroke patients could lead to added health complications and even death. They were both fully aware of the risks, which makes their behaviour even harder to comprehend."
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