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Nurse's anguish over her arrest for 'borrowing' pills to ease broken foot pain

By Deborah McAleese

Published 12/03/2016

A nurse who was arrested and held in a police cell overnight for taking six painkillers from her hospital's medicine cabinet says her life has been destroyed
A nurse who was arrested and held in a police cell overnight for taking six painkillers from her hospital's medicine cabinet says her life has been destroyed

A nurse who was arrested and held in a police cell overnight for taking six painkillers from her hospital's medicine cabinet says her life has been destroyed.

The single mother-of-two was caught on a secretly installed camera removing six Co-Codamol tablets and two sleeping pills from the cabinet at the South West Acute Hospital while she was on duty.

She said she needed them to ease the pain of her broken foot and had intended to replenish them when she had the chance to collect a prescription from her pharmacist.

Within an hour of removing the pills police arrived at the hospital in the Western Trust area to arrest her on suspicion of theft and possession of a class B drug.

The 47-year-old was taken to Enniskillen PSNI station, where she was fingerprinted, searched, questioned and then held overnight.

Her home and car were searched by officers.

She was released the following day without charge.

However, a file is being prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.

The nurse of 13 years, who asked to remain anonymous as she has yet to tell her elderly parents about the case, has been suspended without pay by the Western Trust pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Her registration has also been suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which sent three representatives from London to question her following her arrest.

"This has ruined my life. I just feel like I am being hung out to dry," she said.

"I don't understand why this could not have been dealt with internally."

She was on duty on January 8 when she took the tablets.

She claimed she had not had time before her shift to collect her prescription, so decided to "borrow" some to help with the pain in her foot, which she had recently broken.

"The evening it happened, my whole world just imploded," she said.

"I was on duty when the police arrived and arrested me at 5.20pm. They kept me in the police car outside the police station in Enniskillen for an hour-and-a-half. I wasn't allowed to call anyone. I couldn't let my children know what was happening or where I was. I had never been in a police station before in my life.

"They took me in and took my fingerprints. They put me in a cell. You see when they close that door, it is just horrendous. I was sitting there in my nurse's uniform."

The woman added: "I had to sign something to let them search my house and my car. I think about six of them turned up at my house. My children were there.

"I just can't believe all of this. My children are traumatised. It is having a horrible effect on my son and daughter."

She said the fallout from the incident had left her with severe depression and anxiety. She is now on antidepressants and is to undergo counselling.

"I just feel this should not have been dealt with in such a severe way. I just don't understand it. I have never been in trouble in my life and I gave my all to my job. I love nursing and I just don't know what to do or where to turn," she said.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust refused to discuss the case. A spokeswoman said: "The trust does not comment on individual employment matters."

The PSNI said: "A 47-year-old female was arrested in the Irvinestown Road area of Enniskillen on January 8 on suspicion of theft and possession of a class B controlled drug.

"She was interviewed and subsequently released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service."

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