Nurse found guilty of drugging patients ‘for an easy life’

Stroke unit nurse Catherine Hudson was remanded in custody following her conviction, and the trial judge said she faces an immediate prison term
Catherine Hudson

Stroke unit nurse Catherine Hudson was remanded in custody following her conviction, and the trial judge said she faces an immediate prison term

Catherine Hudson. Picture: Lancashire Constabulary

A nurse has been found guilty of ill-treating patients on a hospital stroke unit by giving them sedatives to ‘keep them quiet and compliant’.

Catherine Hudson drugged two patients for an ‘easy life’ while she worked shifts at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, run by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, between February 2017 and November 2018.

Jurors at Preston Crown Court also convicted the band 5 nurse of conspiring with Charlotte Wilmot, a band 4 assistant practitioner, to administer a sedative to a third patient. They cleared Ms Hudson of ill-treating two other patients.

Members of the trial jury were read WhatsApp messages between Ms Hudson and Ms Wilmot that revealed a ‘culture of abuse’ on the unit. In one message, Ms Hudson said: ‘I sedated one of them to within an inch of her life lol. Bet she’s flat for a week haha xxx.’

Nursing student whistleblower reported her concerns about what she witnessed on clinical placement

The court heard that a nursing student spoke up about events that concerned her while on placement at the unit in November 2018.

The student said Hudson suggested administering unprescribed Zopiclone, a sleeping pill, to a patient and became further troubled when Hudson said: ‘Well she’s got a DNAR [do not attempt resuscitation notice] in place so she wouldn’t be opened up if she died or like if it came to any harm.’

The court was told Zopiclone is potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately to acutely unwell patients.

However, Ms Hudson had told the trial she showed ‘nothing but care and devotion’ to the stroke unit’s patients and their families.

Both defendants denied the charges and claimed their private messages were banter and not to be taken seriously. They said they used 'gallows humour' to venting frustration at working in a chronically understaffed unit.

Nurse now waits to hear length of her prison sentence

Judge Robert Altham remanded Ms Hudson in custody following the verdicts, reached after almost 14 hours of jury deliberation.

He said: ‘The sentence for Catherine Hudson plainly has to be of immediate custody. The only question is the length.’

Ms Wilmot was also convicted of encouraging the nurse to drug a patient. She was granted bail but the judge warned her it was likely she too would receive an immediate prison term.

Ms Hudson previously admitted charges of theft of medicine and conspiracy to steal medicine from the hospital.

Blackpool trust claims improvements in staffing and culture at hospital

In a statement following the verdicts, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Trish Armstrong-Child, a nurse by background, said: ‘It is very clear from the evidence heard by the jury that inappropriate and unacceptable conduct and practices were taking place at the time and I want to say sorry to patients, families and colleagues who impacted.’

She said a number of improvements had been made following the case, including in staffing, medicines management and creating a more respectful culture to encourage anyone who has concerns to speak up.

PODCAST: My role helping nurses to speak up about their NHS concerns

In other news