Nurse Remanded Over Stepping Hill Deaths

23 July 2011, 09:40

After the deaths of 5 patients at Stepping Hill Hospital, who it's claimed had their medication tampered with, a nurse is remanded into custody.

Rebecca Leighton appeared at Manchester Magistrates Court where she was accused of three counts of criminal damage with intent to endanger life and three counts of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life was being endangered.
She also faced a charge of stealing medicine from Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

Leighton was remanded in custody until August 1 when she will next appear at Manchester Crown Court.

During the 20-minute hearing, the defendant spoke only to confirm her full name, date of birth and address.

Wearing a white hooded top, grey tracksuit bottoms and pink trainers, Leighton wiped away tears as she first came into the dock before regaining her composure as she glanced across at a group of around 15 family and friends.

Leighton was arrested at her flat on Wednesday by detectives probing the contamination of saline solution at Stepping Hill, where she worked.

The alarm was raised at the hospital in Stockport last week when a higher than normal number of patients were reported to have "unexplained'' low blood sugar levels.

Derek Weaver, 83, from Stockport, died yesterday after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode on July 11 - a day after he was admitted from his interim care home with breathing problems.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Tracey Arden, 44, of Heaviley, died on July 7, and retired photographer Arnold Lancaster, 71, of Romiley, died on July 11.

George Keep, 84, of Cheadle, died on July 14 after being admitted to the hospital with a broken hip, while on the same day 84-year-old Vera Pearson also died.

A man in his 40s linked with the investigation remains "very poorly'' in a critical care unit at Stepping Hill.

Chris Burke, chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are aware that Greater Manchester Police have charged the 27-year-old female suspect.

Our thoughts are with the families affected by this incident. All of the staff here are extremely shocked and appalled by what has happened and we have ensured there is appropriate support available.''

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, said: "This is a complex, ongoing police investigation. We will continue to work with police and provide advice as they continue their detailed inquiries. We will of course review any further evidence they provide to us and decide whether any further charges should be brought.''

The maximum sentence for criminal damage intending to endanger life or being reckless as to whether life would be endangered is life imprisonment, said the CPS.

In a statement, Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said: "The NMC has now received confirmation from the Greater Manchester Police that registered nurse Rebecca Leighton has been charged.

Fitness to practise proceedings are under way and a hearing to decide whether she should be suspended from the register will be held as quickly as possible.''

South Manchester Coroner John Pollard is understood to be reviewing all deaths at the Stockport hospital since July 7, with all future deaths also referred to him.

Greater Manchester Police has admitted it was "likely'' it will be asked to investigate further deaths by the coroner.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said it was part of the coroner's ``belt and braces approach'' to ensure that all cases with potential links to the inquiry were appropriately investigated and scrutinised.

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