Nurse who stole powerful painkilling drugs from ward at Stobhill avoids being struck off

23-05-2015 Picture Roberto Cavieres.  General view of Stobhill Hospital
23-05-2015 Picture Roberto Cavieres. General view of Stobhill Hospital

A nurse who admitted taking powerful painkilling drugs from a mental health ward at Stobhill Hospital has avoided being struck off.

Helen Ralston of Kirkintilloch pleaded guilty to a charge of embezzlement at Glasgow Sheriff Court in January last year and was fined £200.

She was dismissed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in June the same year.

At a hearing earlier this month, nursing watchdog panel ruled Miss Ralston be suspended for six months.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council panel said Miss Ralston had brought the profession into disrepute through her actions and subsequent conviction.

But the panel added they were of the view that a striking-off order would be “disproportionate at this time.”

A six-month suspension, they determined, was “the appropriate order as it would provide Miss Ralston with the opportunity to return to a future panel with additional information, whilst protecting the public and maintaining confidence in the profession.”

Miss Ralston did not attend the hearing. At an earlier hearing, she was given an interim suspension of 18 months.

During an investigation by the health board, Miss Ralston admitted to taking tramadol and cocodomol from a ward.

She said she had taken the medications for back pain and was “morally ashamed” of her actions.

At the latest hearing, the panel noted that Miss Ralston “was engaging with appropriate support mechanisms and was making apparent progress.”

It noted Miss Ralston’s “evident remorse for her actions which she had expressed throughout the employer’s

investigation process.”

It was revealed at the hearing that the nurse had sought appropriate professional help such as counselling and had had no previous referrals to the NMC.

The panel considered that while there is “no evidence of patient harm having taken place through Miss Ralston’s actions”, it could not address future concerns as it had “no information to assure it that she had gained sufficient insight and appropriate remediation”.

The panel concluded that a risk to the public continued to exist as there was no evidence to the contrary.