An A&E nurse who took psychoactive drugs and laughing gas while she was meant to be treating patients has been struck off.
Helen Smithson would sneak into empty rooms and take stolen drugs with a co-worker and then film him lounging around in a patient gown.
A tribunal found the ex-Royal Sussex County Hospital nurse had ‘abused her position of trust’ and put patients at risk.
Smithson had been a registered nurse for 32 years. She worked at the hospital between October 2010 and August 2016.
She faced ten charges at a fitness to practice hearing last week, all of which were found proved, according to a report of the hearing obtained from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Filming her ‘semi-naked’ colleague in a patient gown
In one instance, the senior nurse snuck into an A&E store room and took Entonox laughing gas while in her nurse’s uniform, the panel found.
In a video played at the hearing Smithson can be heard laughing as she filmed her colleague – a healthcare assistant – lying on a patient bed ‘semi-naked dressed in a hospital gown’ and also on a toilet.
‘You are soooo naughty’
The committee said that messages Smithson sent to her hospital friend show that she knew he was or may have been stealing drugs.
After he sent her a picture of morphine-filled syringe she replied: “Hahahah how did you sneak that bad boy out…. You are sooooo naughty…”
Other messages from the colleague – known simply as ‘Colleague A’ at the hearing – included:
- “Managed to get two 10mg Temazepam gf. We’ll have one each.”
- “Meet me in the plaster room. Got two Entenox canisters! xx Let’s get high.”
Temazepam is a psychoactive drug used to treat insomnia. Entenox is a brand name for nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.
‘Yummy, naughty’ Oxycodone drugs
In one damning video, Smithson can be heard debating which drugs to take first.
She says: “The only question now is which one do I take first? I think it might be a bit much to double drop Oxycodone and Lorazepam together.
“I think I’m just going to take two Oxycodone. I haven’t had these before. Yummy. So naughty.”
Oxycodone is an opioid drug used to treat pain.
Smithson complains about ‘witch finder general’
After appearing before the fitness practice committee last year, Smithson took to social media and sent ‘derogatory’ messages to a friend, the panel found.
She said the ‘witch finder general looked a bit ridiculous’, a comment deemed to refer to a member of the disciplinary panel.
Smithson told the panel: “I do accept and take responsibility that my behaviour in taking the Entonox whilst on duty was unprofessional.’
“On the question of being complicit in the actions of Colleague A I do not deny knowing that he had stolen drugs.”
All charges were found proved.
A spokesman for the fitness to practice committee said in the report: “The panel determined that Miss Smithson’s conduct in respect of the charges found proved were significant departures from the standards expected of a registered nurse, and are fundamentally incompatible with her remaining on the register.
“The panel was of the view that significant failings particularly in respect of Miss Smithson’s abuse of position of trust, taking drugs for recreational use, and serious dishonesty made it quite incompatible for her to remain on the register.”
The panel determined that Smithson should be struck off.