Nurse sacked for taking paracetamol suspended from profession for six months

A nurse who ended up in court after taking tablets to treat a headache from the hospital she worked at has been suspended from the profession.

Covert CCTV footage at Arrowe Park Hospital found Francesca Morgan, 33, taking tablets from a medication room that had been intended for patients. Popping the tablets led to Morgan being convicted of theft at Wirral Magistrates Court in December 2022.

Now, following an investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), she has been hit with a six-month suspension.

Morgan, from Woolton, worked at the Wirral hospital as a band 5 registered nurse. According to a NMC fitness to practise committee report, as a result of unaccounted medication losses, covert cameras were set up in the medication room in June 2021.

Footage from those cameras identified Morgan taking paracetamol as well as a laxative solution on two occasions. These medications were intended for patients.

Morgan sent an email to NHS professionals in February 2022 claiming she could only assume that she had placed paracetamol in her pocket to give to a patient when being in a rush and that she had not intentionally set out to steal medication.

At a meeting on 6 April, she denied taking the tablets while working but accepted she had done so when presented with the CCTV evidence.

In relation to taking the paracetamol, Morgan said it was a “known thing that if you have a headache, you can take paracetamol”. In a letter to the NMC in March last year, she said she had taken the tablets with assumed consent because she was feeling poorly.

The nurse said that the taking of paracetamol was “commonplace” within the ward environment amongst staff and therefore she assumed that it would be okay. A statement from the Wirral University Hospital Trust said it was not acceptable for staff to take medications for personal use and that it was against its medicines management policy.

Appearing in court in December 2022, Morgan was handed a 12-month conditional discharge and made to pay £144 in costs and victim surcharge. Prosecutor Yvonne Dobson said the nurse was not wholly accused of being responsible for the theft of all of the drugs.

She added, “We are not accusing her of the entire theft. These are two limited incidents.

“She believed that she had implied consent to take the medication. There was a lack of previous convictions but she has now lost her good character.”

In mitigation, defence solicitor Laura Flynn told the court that Morgan had not only lost her job, but also her career as a consequence of the thefts.

While no harm came to any patients, the panel felt by stealing medication, the nurse’s actions had the potential to put patients at “unwarranted risk of harm.” It was said Morgan had shown some insight in a reflect statement.

She said, “I realise it is not acceptable to take medication belonging to the ward as this could be seen as theft. I have spent many hours reflecting on the situation I placed myself in.”

However, this was not enough to convince officials, who felt a six-month sanction was appropriate, given the nature of the offence and Morgan’s perceived “continuing risk to the public”.

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