Catherine Hudson, right, and Charlotte Wilmot, leaving Preston crown court. Photograph: James Maloney/LancsLive/MEN Guardian
“Blackpool nurse found guilty of sedating patients to ‘keep them quiet..
..Police launched an investigation in November 2018 after a whistleblowing student nurse on placement at the hospital raised concerns about the treatment of patients on the stroke unit….‘
…A nurse is facing jail after being found guilty of mistreating patients on a hospital stroke unit by giving them sedatives to “keep them quiet and compliant” for an “easy life”.
Catherine Hudson, 54, drugged two patients during shifts at Blackpool Victoria hospital in April 2017 and November 2018. Jurors at Preston crown court also convicted her of conspiring with a junior colleague, Charlotte Wilmot, 48, to administer a sedative to a third patient.
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.
The court heard how Hudson wrote in a text that she had sedated a patient ‘within an inch of her life’, adding: ‘Bet she’s flat for a week, ha ha.’
Hudson was cleared of mistreating two other patients. Judge Altham, the honorary recorder of Preston, remanded her in custody after the verdicts, which were reached after nearly 14 hours of deliberation.
He said: ‘The sentence for Catherine Hudson plainly has to be a sentence of immediate custody. The only question is the length.’
Altham granted bail to Wilmot, who was convicted of encouraging Hudson to drug a patient, but told her the ‘overwhelming likelihood’ was that she, too, would receive an immediate custodial term.
Sentencing of Hudson, a band 5 nurse from Blackpool, and of Wilmot, an assistant practitioner also from Blackpool, will take place on 13 and 14 December.
Police had been called to investigate after a whistleblowing student nurse on a work placement said Hudson had suggested administering unprescribed 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.’
Zopiclone was potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately to acutely unwell patients, the court heard.
WhatsApp messages between Hudson and Wilmot were uncovered after an investigation was launched into alleged misconduct on the unit.
During the trial, Peter Wright KC, cross-examining Wilmot, took her through some of the message exchanges.
In response to Hudson suggesting the sedation of a patient, Wilmot replied: ‘Ha ha yeah sedation we love it.’
In an exchange about another patient, Hudson wrote: ‘I’m going to kill bed 5 xxx.’ Wilmot replied: ‘Pmsl [pissing myself laughing] well tonight sedate him to high heaven lol.’
Hudson later wrote: ‘I’ve just sedated him lol lol he was gearing up to start.’ Wilmot replied ‘Pmsl’ followed by tablets and hypodermic needle emojis, adding: ‘Praise the lord.’ Hudson had told the court the text conversations were ‘just banter’ to relieve the stresses of the job.
She told jurors that for years the unit had been understaffed to a ‘completely dangerous level’ and that medication was ‘scattered around’ and freely available.
Hudson said the ‘whole ward was corrupt’ and that ‘95% of the staff’ would take medication from the unit.
Speaking after the verdicts, the specialist prosecutor Karen Tonge said the pair’s actions had been ‘callous and dangerous’ and they had shown ‘utter contempt for patients in their care’
She said: ‘Their role was to care for the patients on their ward; instead they conspired to ill-treat patients, sedating them for their own convenience and amusement or purely out of spite.
They grossly abused their position and the trust that patients and their families put in them. Now they must face the consequences of their actions.’”
That student nurse deserves to be celebrated; it’s a pity that there weren’t more like her on placement at Stafford Hospital, University Hospital of Morecambe Bay, Shrewsbury & Telford Hospitals, or Nottingham University Hospitals Trust – the list goes on. She did the right thing; she put patient care before her relationships with those senior colleagues on the ward. She needs to be held up as an example of what we expect all those working in the NHS to do. Bad practice thrives in toxic workplaces because either people are part of the ‘bad practice’ or are too afraid to speak up when something is wrong – when consultants’ practice is negligent, or a policy is inappropriately imposed on patients who urgently need different treatment – the imposition of ‘natural labour’ when a caesarean is necessary to save both the women’s and their babies’ lives.
I can imagine why the student doesn’t want to take credit as it could make colleagues suspicious that she might complain about them. However, what that student nurse did was extraordinary, and her actions should be Publicly celebrated – yet I hear nothing. No Newsnight special on the importance of whistleblowing in the NHS, nothing said in the House of Commons. Mind you, the MP for Blackpool, Scott Benton, is currently suspended for offering to lobby ministers on behalf of the gambling industry and to leak a confidential policy document for up to £4,000 a month.
Let’s be explicit here: what that student nurse did was akin to a secretary exposing Weinstein or a runner exposing Savile. Power-wise, she was on the first rung of the nursing ladder.