Nurse stole painkillers from hospital where she worked to feed habit

Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham.

Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham.

An addicted nurse stole painkillers from a secure cupboard - signing them to patients who had left hospital or changed wards.

Sophie Heaven had gone to the store 46 times and was finally caught when staff noticed a shortfall in dihydrocodine, a codeine-based medication, a court heard on Friday.

An order to carry out 140 hours’ unpaid work was imposed on Heaven, 24, of Malthouse Road, Ilkeston. She was put on probation for a year after admitting theft between January 1 and July 6 from the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, where she works.

Nottingham magistrate Farnoosh Shahrokhshahi told her: “The reason we have done this is because of the high level breach of trust.

“In your favour is that you have no relevant previous record and have clearly shown remorse.”

Alison Hallett, prosecuting, said a enquiry was launched after it was found “a large amount was going from the secure cupboard” where the medication was kept. Checks revealed a “huge discrepancy” between Heaven’s access to the store when compared to other nurses.

Miss Hallett told the court: “There was a transaction in April where it appears Miss Heaven issued boxes of the medication to a patient who had already been discharged.

“On five other occasions, the codeine was issued to patients on a different ward. It was never given to patients.”

When detained, three boxes of the drug were found in her car. More tablets were discovered in her dressing gown pocket at her home.

Miss Hallett said: “She later admitted an addiction to codeine, suffering from post natal depression following the birth of her son.

“She broke a foot, was prescribed painkillers and became addicted to them. She said she had been taking more than 32 tablets a day.”

Steve Ramsell, mitigating, said she took between 12 and 40 boxes and that “the value of each box must be comparatively low”.

Since being detained, she had gone to her family doctor who sent her to the Derbyshire Substance Misuse Team. Heaven had undergone tests which show she is now clear of drugs. At the time of the offence, she felt “a crushing need” for the drug.

Mr Ramsell told the court: “Her references show she is held in very high regard in her employment. It is so high it seems it will not necessarily be that she will lose her employment and she may be deployed in the organisation where she will not be required to handle medication.”

“There is no suggestion that her responsibility, commitment and her work ethic have been called into question while carrying out her duties.”