Nurse who sedated patients on hospital stroke unit for an ‘easy life’ jailed

Catherine Hudson wrote about sedating one victim to ‘within an inch of her life’

Holly Evans
Thursday 14 December 2023 16:03 GMT
Family of victims react after nurse found guilty of sedating stroke patients for ‘easy life’

An NHS nurse who was giving her patients on a hospital stroke unit sedatives to “keep them quiet and compliant” has been jailed for seven years and two months.

Catherine Hudson, 54, had drugged two patients for an “easy life” while working at Blackpool Victoria Hospital between April 2017 and November 2018.

Hudson wrote about one of her victims: “I sedated one of them to within an inch of her life lol. Bet she’s flat for a week haha xxx.”

She was also convicted of conspiring with a junior colleague, Charlotte Wilmot, 48, to administer a sedative to a third patient. Wilmot was jailed for three years, while a third member of staff, Marek Grabienowski, was jailed for 14 months for perverting the course of justice.

Catherine Hudson has been jailed for seven years and two months (PA)

Police had been alerted after a whistleblowing student nurse on a work placement reported that Hudson had suggested administering unprescribed zopiclone to a patient. The sleeping pill zpiclone is potentially life-threatening if given inappropriately to acutely unwell patients.

The student nurse became further alarmed after Hudson commented: “Well she’s got a DNAR [do not attempt resuscitation] in place so she wouldn’t be opened up if she died or like if it came to any harm.”

After officers examined WhatsApp messages between the two defendants and their colleagues, a “culture of abuse” was revealed on the unit.

In a message exchange about an elderly male patient, Hudson wrote: “I’m going to kill bed 5 xxx.”

Two patients were sedated at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital (PA)

Wilmot replied: “Pmsl [pissing myself laughing] well tonight sedate him to high heaven lol xxx.”

Hudson said: “Already in my head to give him double!!”

Another set of messages between the friends showed an “antipathy” towards an elderly female patient and her daughter, the court heard.

Hudson posted: “R u actually kidding me?? Surely there’s no one worse than her!! Which bay?? I’m in pink tonight, no dickheads had better b in there or they r being sedated (laughing emojis)!! Xxx.”

Wilmot replied: “Yeah very f****** annoying. Give her the best sleep she ever had pmsl (laughing emojis) xxx.”

Jurors at Preston Crown Court heard that the woman’s daughter had made three complaints about the standard of care to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service but had received no reply.

Charlotte Wilmott was jailed for three years (PA)

On Wednesday, one victim’s son, Brian Scott, entered the witness box to deliver his victim personal statement and said the “bravery” of the whistleblower had “most likely saved my mum’s life”.

He said he and his mother – who was not fit to join him at court – had travelled from Glasgow to the seaside resort in October 2018 for a “well-earned break” to spend quality time together.

The following day Mrs Scott suffered a stroke in her room at the Imperial Hotel and was completely paralysed on the left side of her body as she was rushed to Blackpool Victoria, he said.

He said: “To this day my mum is fearful about going into hospital. Why? Because of the treatment she had received by Catherine Hudson and others at Blackpool.

“This will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

The stroke unit is currently at the centre of a seperate investigation by Lancashire Constabulary into the suspected murder of patient Valerie Kneale.

The 75-year-old from Blackpool died on the unit on 16 November 2018, a week after the first arrest in the sedation investigation.

Transcript of messaging conversation between Catherine Hudson and Charlotte Wilmot where they discuss ill-treatment of patients (Lancashire Constabulary/SWNS)

A post-mortem investigation found that she died from a haemorrhage caused by a non-medical-related internal injury.

Giving evidence, both defendants denied all the allegations and claimed the private messages were “banter” and not supposed to be taken seriously.

They said the “gallows humour” was the venting of their frustrations at working in a chronically understaffed unit.

Hudson added the “whole ward was corrupt” and that “95 per cent of the staff” would take medication from the unit.

However, they were found guilty after 14 hours of deliberation, with Hudson also convicted of stealing mebeverine, a medication intended for an end-of-life patient.

She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiring with other colleagues to steal other drugs including zopilcone and also a further offence of perverting the course of justice.

Aileen Scott has been left terrified to visit hospital after being targeted by Hudson (Family Handout/PA Wire)

Wilmot had also pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal medication from the hospital.

Judge Robert Altham, honorary recorder of Preston, said: “The offences of ill-treatment were committed by these defendants whose duty was to protect and care for them. The patients were as vulnerable as anyone could be.

“These defendants exploited them for an easy shift, for amusement and to exercise contemptuous power over them.”

He said the whistleblowing nurse, who the prosecution had requested not be named, should be commended for her actions.

He said: “It was only as a result of her courage and sense of public duty that what was happening on the ward was exposed and stopped.”

Hudson’s boyfriend, Marek Grabianowski, 46, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring with Hudson to steal zopiclone and medication. Together with Hudson, the dog groomer also admitted perverting the course of justice by disposing of evidence.

Police photo of evidence including drugs collected from the two healthcare workers (Lancashire Constabulary/SWNS)

Grabianowski, of Montpelier Avenue, Bispham, who at the time was a band 7 nurse at Blackpool Victoria’s accident and emergency department, was jailed for 14 months.

Evidence during the trial highlighted the “dysfunctional” drugs regime on the stroke ward with free and easy access to controlled drugs and medication which led to “wholesale theft” by staff.

Nurses would also routinely carry zopiclone in their pockets, the court heard.

Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Police, said: “Hudson and Wilmot treated the patients without care or compassion, laughing when they came to harm and drugging them to keep them quiet so that they could have an easy shift.

“The risks associated with these callous acts were obvious – inappropriately sedating elderly stroke patients could lead to added health complications and even death. They were both fully aware of the risks, which makes their behaviour even harder to comprehend.

“Everyone should be safe in hospital, should receive the care they need, and be treated with dignity and respect. Sadly, our enquiries uncovered the actions of a nurse who was prepared to commit systematic and calculated offending, all whilst portraying herself as a role-model nurse. This could not be further from the truth.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in