The nurse arrested then freed over the saline contamination deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport has lost her appeal against her dismissal. Rebecca Leighton was sacked for theft after being released and cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to the deaths last year.

Miss Leighton, 28, from Stockport, was told she would not be allowed to return to her job at the hospital at yesterday's appeal hearing.

She spent six weeks in jail after being held by Cheshire Police, charged with causing criminal damage intending to endanger life; of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life would be endangered; and of theft of medicine. The Royal College of Nursing confirmed an appeal hearing against the sacking was held yesterday but it was dismissed.

Miss Leighton attended the hearing, which was presided over by Trust officials from Stockport NHS Foundation Trust.

Criminal charges were dropped when prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence against Miss Leighton but she was sacked by the Trust in December last year after admitted stealing hospital drugs.

The Trust chose not to comment.