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Blackpool nurse guilty of ‘callously’ drugging patients

A nurse is facing time in prison after being found guilty of drugging patients on a stroke unit in “callous acts” that were brought to light by a nursing student.

Catherine Hudson, 54, has been convicted of needlessly sedating two patients during shifts at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2017 and 2018.

“They were both fully aware of the risks, which makes their behaviour even harder to comprehend”

Jill Johnston

Her junior colleague Charlotte Wilmot, 48, an assistant practitioner, was found guilty of encouraging and conspiring with Hudson.

The jury at Preston Crown Court heard how Hudson had sedated the patients for her own amusement and to make her shifts easier.

Judge Robert Altham remanded Hudson into custody following 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.”

Mr Altham granted bail to Wilmot but told her the “overwhelming likelihood” was that she too would receive an immediate custodial term.

Hudson, of Coriander Close, Blackpool, and Wilmot, of Bowland Crescent, Blackpool, are set to be sentenced in December.

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.

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The student saw Hudson give unprescribed zopiclone, a sleeping pill, to a patient. When questioned, Hudson said not to worry because the patient had a ‘do not resuscitate’ order in place so “she wouldn’t be opened up” if she died or was harmed.

Zopiclone is potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately to acutely unwell patients, the court heard.

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.

Catherine Hudson’s mugshot

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.”

In a message exchange about an elderly male patient, Hudson wrote: “I’m going to kill bed 5.”

Wilmot replied: “Pmsl (pissing myself laughing) well tonight sedate him to high heaven lol.”

Hudson said: “Already in my head to give him double!!”

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).”

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

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

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.

Overall, Hudson was found guilty of three counts of ill treatment and one count of conspiracy to ill treat.

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The nurse was also convicted of stealing and conspiring to steal medication from the unit, and a further offence of perverting the course of justice.

Meanwhile, her colleague Wilmot was found guilty of conspiracy to ill treat, encouraging Hudson to sedate a patient, and conspiring to steal medication.

Detective chief inspector Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Constabulary, said: “Hudson and Wilmot ill-treated the very people who they were supposed to care for.

“The sentence for Catherine Hudson plainly has to be a sentence of immediate custody”

Robert Altham

“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.”

Of Hudson, Ms Johnston said the investigation had shown her to be a “nurse who was prepared to commit systematic and calculated offending, all whilst portraying herself as a role model nurse”.

She added: “I am pleased that justice has been served and that Hudson and Wilmot will never be allowed to work in the care profession again.”

Meanwhile, Trish Armstrong-Child, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, apologised to patients, families and staff impacted by the crimes and said the trust was making improvements to areas such as staffing, managing medicine and workplace culture.

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