A Lincoln County Hospital nurse has been accused of “abusing her position” by stealing morphine to feed her own alleged prescription drug addiction.
Kimberley Cooper, 39, is facing claims she deliberately falsified morphine entries on 20 patient records on over 40 occasions as well as forging the signatures of her colleagues between October 2013 and July 2014.
Three entries were allegedly made in the name of a patient who was no longer at the hospital.
It is alleged Cooper, from Tomlinson Way, Ruskington , had become reliant on the Class A drug following her own medical problems and was stealing it for herself.
Suspicions were raised after stock records revealed seven ampoules of the painkiller had gone missing on the gynaecology ward where Cooper worked in just one day, the court heard.
Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court: “Nurses are in a position of trust in a variety of ways.
“One of those is to make sure patient records are accurate.
“The prosecution say because what has happened, and what can be proved to have happened by a handwriting expert and other evidence, is that Miss Cooper has been falsifying, forging and altering patient records and the hospital’s drugs books.
“She is doing that because she is stealing the morphine, most likely for herself.”
Mr Wigoder told the jury morphine is so powerful that it is classified under the Dangerous Drugs Act as a Class A drug which puts it on the same level as heroin, crack and cocaine.
“It follows that hospitals which use morphine as pain relief have to keep it very securely and have a number of checks and balances in place to ensure that is carefully controlled,” Mr Wigoder added.
The court heard Cooper was a nurse on Branston Ward at Lincoln County Hospital, a gynaecology ward whose patients did on occasions require morphine for pain relief.
Mr Wigoder said all transactions relating to morphine sulphate required two signatures from the nurse who drew up the medication and another witness, and were recorded in the ward’s Controlled Drugs Record Book.
“If you are going to steal morphine you need to make quite a lot of false entries,” Mr Wigoder told the jury.
“You will hear from a handwriting expert there is strong evidence that it was Miss Cooper who was making those false entries.”
The prosecution also allege “it is significant” that there are no alterations in the drugs record books when Cooper was on sick leave between 20April 20 and July 7, 2014.
Mr Wigoder said: “The simple fact is that while she is off alterations don’t appear in the books.”
It is alleged that Cooper falsified three morphine entries for one patient who had already been discharged from the hospital.
“Fairly obviously you can’t give drugs to someone who is no longer in hospital,” Mr Wigoder told the jury.
On another occasion it is alleged that records showed a female patient was prescribed 45 milligrams of morphine when she in fact received just 20 milligrams.
A doctor also said he would only prescribe individual morphine doses of ten milligrams and that any doses of 15 milligrams in his name would have been forged, the jury heard.
The morphine stock records were checked after seven ampoules were found to be missing at the end of the day on July 14, 2014.
Mr Wigoder told the jury: “From the 11 November 2013 until the 14 July 2014 with the gap I have told you about (when Mrs Cooper was off sick) the records in relation to 20 different patients have been forged on over 40 different occasions.
“In total, 430 milligrams of morphine were stolen.”
Mr Wigoder added: “This is where the real harm of the case comes, because any doctor or any nurse looking at that patient would not know that medication had not been prescribed.”
Cooper was initially arrested on 15 July, 2014.
Mr Wigoder said: “She denied any part in this and said on some of the days she had not been at work.”
He told the jury although this may have been correct on some occasions, she would have been at work the following day.”We can show she had the opportunity to alter the records and steal the morphine,” Mr Wigoder said.
Giving evidence, nurse Jane Gilbert, who worked on the same ward, admitted there had been a previous incident where one ampoule of morphine had gone missing and Miss Cooper was not working.
Nurse Gilbert confirmed she did notice a crossing out in the drugs register when she signed it herself at 5pm on 14 July, 2014.
She said: “I said that there was a crossing out and that we would be in trouble.”
Cooper denies one charge of theft, four charges of forgery and one charge of possessing a Class A drug.
The trial continues.