Nurse is held over deaths

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Police investigating suspicious deaths in intensive care units were last night questioning a 35-year-old nurse suspended from duty at a Nottinghamshire hospital 16 months ago amid fears that vital bedside equipment had been quietly sabotaged.

Mandy Jenkinson worked at Bassetlaw general hospital, Worksop, from 1992 until a sequence of inexplicable events in the four-bed intensive care unit led in February 1994 to an investigation by a squad of 21 detectives. The inquiry took police to seven other hospitals where she worked. She was dismissed by Bassetlaw in March.

Ms Jenkinson, who lived with her boyfriend a mile from the hospital, is understood to have been the woman police arrested yesterday on suspicion of being responsible for the death of a patient inBassetlaw. She was taken to Worksop police station and held in custody overnight.

The police always stressed that investigations would be complicated by the serious medical condition of patients in intensive care units. The inquiry focused at first on five Bassetlaw patients, two of whom died. As police reviewed case histories, including 116 deaths, medical experts were asked whether episodes in patients' care were plausible or suspicious. "Because of the nature of the unit, numbers of patients do unfortunately die," Detective Superintendent Peter Coles, leading the investigation, said last year.

Suspicions centred on electronic controls used to regulate breathing apparatus and pumps delivering patients' medication intravenously. Detectives visited hospitals where the nurse had previously worked, including Gloucestershire Royal, Gloucester; Nottingham City; Southmead, Bristol; John Radcliffe, Oxford; St George's, south London; Central Middlesex, north-west London; and Northern General, Sheffield.

Ann Alexander, a medical negligence lawyer, said police should give details of their investigations to patients and families: "They have a right and a need to know as soon as possible. They could be permanently harmed by the knowledge, or the suspicion, that equipment has been tampered with."