Blackpool Victoria Hospital stroke unit nurse jailed over drugging patients for ‘easy life’

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A nurse who drugged patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital's stroke unit for an “easy life” has been jailed for seven years and two months, while a second nurse was jailed for three years.

Catherine Hudson, 54, illegally sedated two patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and conspired with junior colleague Charlotte Wilmot, 48, to sedate a third.

Police were alerted by hospital chiefs in November 2018 after a student nurse on a work placement said Hudson suggested administering unprescribed zopiclone, a sleeping pill, to elderly patient Aileen Scott.

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The whistleblower 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.”

She was said to be “shocked” when Hudson then took a strip of zopiclone from her tunic pocket and administered the sedative.

Catherine HudsonCatherine Hudson
Catherine Hudson | Lancashire Police

Zopiclone – a Class C controlled drug – was potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately to acutely unwell patients, Preston Crown Court heard.

Wilmot, who was also found guilty of encouraging “lead offender” Hudson to ill-treat another patient in her care, was imprisoned for three years.

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Charlotte Wilmot, 48, of Bowland Crescent, BlackpoolCharlotte Wilmot, 48, of Bowland Crescent, Blackpool
Charlotte Wilmot, 48, of Bowland Crescent, Blackpool | Lancashire Police

Judge Robert Altham, Honorary Recorder of Preston, said: “The offences of ill-treatment were committed by these defendants whose duty was to protect and care for them.

“The patients were as vulnerable as anyone could be.

“These defendants exploited them for an easy shift, for amusement and to exercise contemptuous power over them.”

He said the whistleblowing nurse, who the prosecution had requested not be named, should be commended for her actions.

He said: “It was only as a result of her courage and sense of public duty that what was happening on the ward was exposed and stopped.”

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'Culture of abuse' exposed in 'wicked' WhatsApp messages

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.”

In a message exchange about an elderly male 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 xxx.”

“Already in my head to give him double!!”

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The next evening, Hudson messaged Wilmot: “If bed 5 starts he will b getting sedated to hell pmsfl. I’ll get u the abx (antibiotic) xxx.”

Later, Hudson wrote: “I’ve just sedated him lol he was gearing up to start (laughing emoji) xxx.”

Wilmot said: “Pmsl (tablet and hypodermic needle emojis) praise the lord Xxx.”

Another set of messages between the friends showed an “antipathy” towards an elderly female patient and her daughter, the court heard.

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Hudson posted: “R u actually kidding me?? Surely there’s no-one worse than her!! Which bay?? I’m in pink tonight, no dickheads had better b in there or they r being sedated (laughing emojis)!! Xxx.”

Wilmot replied: “Yeah very f****** annoying. Give her the best sleep she ever had pmsl (laughing emojis) xxx.”

Hudson said: “Permanently (laughing emojis) xxx.”

Giving evidence, both defendants denied all the allegations and 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.