Nurse is jailed for trying to kill elderly patients

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The Independent Online

A nurse was jailed for five years yesterday after a jury convicted her of trying to kill two elderly patients in a "ruthless" attempt to free hospital beds.

A nurse was jailed for five years yesterday after a jury convicted her of trying to kill two elderly patients in a "ruthless" attempt to free hospital beds.

Barbara Salisbury, 48, was cleared of the attempted murders of James Byrne, 76, and Reuben Thompson, 81. But the former ward sister was convicted of trying to kill May Taylor, 88, and Frank Owen, 92, at Leighton Hospital in Crewe, Cheshire, in 2002.

Salisbury, from Pontybodkin, north Wales, wept at Chester Crown Court as Mr Justice Pitchford, told her: "Your treatment of Mr Owen was, as one witness described, callous and unprofessional. Some of those nursing with you were traumatised by the experience."

The jury was told that Salisbury, who "crossed the line between humane nursing and callous dispatch", tried between 1999 and 2002 to kill elderly patients either by overdoses of diamorphine or lying them flat on their backs to drown in their lung secretions.

Salisbury said she could not remember any of the patients and denied wrongdoing. But colleagues said she made no secret of her annoyance with elderly patients, many of them critically ill and dying, who blocked the beds on her ward.

Junior members of staff, seen by Salisbury as lazy, were ordered to wake patients in the early hours of the morning for laborious and often unnecessary bed baths.

Frank Owen, a 92-year-old great-grandfather who had been on her ward for almost three months, was the type of patient who frustrated her the most, the court heard. Salisbury was constantly pushing for him to be discharged to a nursing home although he needed to be fed through a drip, which could be done only in hospital.

When Salisbury returned to work in March, 2002, after sick leave, she was appalled to find him still on her ward. She told nurses to lay him on his back so "his lungs will fill with fluid and he will die". She then injected him with diamorphine despite him showing no signs of pain. Within minutes of the end of her first shift back, Mr Owen was dead.

Ten days later, 88-year-old May Taylor also died. She was on a Graseby machine, a pump which administers diamorphine. Salisbury kept pushing the booster button. "Why prolong the inevitable?" she said.

Police indicated that they were not investigating any other deaths.