The Nursing and Midwifery Council has issued Stepping Hill nurse Rebecca Leighton with an interim order allowing her to work as a nurse but restricting her practice while it carries out a full investigation into the theft of drugs.

A hearing today in London was told that Ms Leighton had admitted taking from the hospital an antibiotic, a box of ibuprofen and the prescription only painkiller tramadol. However, it was not ascertained whether they were for personal use.

Her lawyer Paul Rooney said it would have a “disproportionate and devastating” effect on her professional reputation and financial situation to suspend her from nursing on the allegation of theft.

Following the hearing, at which Ms Leighton was present, the NMC revoked its interim suspension from the nursing and midwifery register, and replaced it with a new interim order that restricts Ms Leighton’s practice. 

The order prevents her from working as a nurse anywhere except at Stepping Hill Hospital, where police investigations are ongoing into the deaths of three patients amid allegations that saline solution was tampered with. It also restricts and her access to drugs.

The original interim order had been imposed on 2 August but it was decided to review it at a hearing following Ms Leighton’s release without charge on 2 September.

The new interim order imposes conditions of practice on Ms Leighton. Under the interim order, she:

  • must only work, in the capacity as a registered nurse, at Stepping Hill hospital
  • must not hold the drugs keys for any ward, department or nursing team
  • must not engage in ordering, receipt and secure storage of any medicinal products (as defined by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency)
  • must not administer any medicinal product (as defined by MHRA) unless under the direct supervision of another registered nurse
  • must notify her employer of the interim conditions imposed on her practice by the NMC.

NMC chief executive Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes said: “The panel considered that although the charges against Ms Leighton of criminal damage intending to endanger life had been discontinued, there is still compelling evidence related to the theft of medication from Stepping Hill hospital.

“Regardless of the other circumstances of the case, the theft of medication is a matter of serious professional misconduct that demands full investigation. We support the panel’s conclusion that a continuing interim order is necessary in this case.”

The Royal College of Nursing, which has been representing Ms Leighton, said it was pleased the original interim suspension order had been lifted by the NMC, but was “disappointed that conditions of practice have been attached”.

Speaking after the NMC hearing, Rebecca Leighton said: “The CPS dropped all charges against me and I hoped that the NMC would take this into account and allow me to go back to the job I love without any conditions attached.

“I now want to concentrate on building my life back up again, going back to work and clearing my name fully. I want to thank my friends and family who have stood by me every step of the way, and all the people who never doubted me.

“My thoughts are still with the families who have lost loved ones and I hope they get the answers they deserve.”

The Royal College of Nursing said it would continue to “support her in the days and months ahead”.