Intended for healthcare professionals

News

Anaesthetist is jailed after stealing codeine from hospital where he no longer worked

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4841 (Published 18 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4841
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

A doctor who repeatedly used his old hospital pass after his employment ended to enter the hospital and steal codeine tablets has been jailed for eight months.

Paul Wilkinson, 30, worked for two years in anaesthetics at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, but when his contract ended he retained his pass. Over an eight month period he used it to enter the hospital on 75 occasions, wearing medical scrubs and stealing 2558 tablets worth £3360 (€3770; $4430) to feed his painkiller addiction.

Sentencing him at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Neil Flewitt QC called for an investigation, adding, “It is extremely concerning. I hope that the authorities have put in place systems to ensure that [this] will never happen again. Nobody at the hospital has picked up that this pass has been repeatedly used in this period.”

Wilkinson’s job ended in August 2016, but he was not caught until the following April, when a nurse spotted him and realised that he had no right to be there. He had entered the hospital in ordinary clothes and then changed into scrubs. He accessed a ward, where he took four packs of tablets, put them in his backpack, and put the bag in a cupboard. He then went to another ward, where he was challenged, restrained, and prevented from leaving.

Wilkinson, who has a serious back injury and depression, admitted burglary, burglary with intent, and theft. He said that he had been taking codeine since 2012 and, while having 100 tablets a month prescribed, was taking as many as 300.

Jayne Morris, prosecuting counsel, said, “He said he knew he would ultimately be caught, but was so desperate with the pain he felt he had no other choice.”

Defending, Osman Munir said that Wilkinson, who qualified in 2010 at Liverpool University, “had an outstanding academic background, and he’s achieved a lot in his field of medicine.” He added, “It’s quite tragic that he has suffered in terms of mental health difficulties and the physical issues that he’s had to endure.”

Judge Flewitt accepted that Wilkinson’s problems were genuine but added that, as a doctor, he should have known where to get help. Taking drugs intended for patients was “an appalling breach of trust,” he added.

Interim conditions have been imposed on Wilkinson’s registration pending a full medical practitioners tribunal hearing into his case. These include restrictions on prescribing drugs. He also has a warning against his name on the UK medical register, relating to a conviction for drink driving in 2015.

A spokesman for Aintree University Hospital said, “We don’t discuss security issues, but we have made several changes as part of the lessons learned from this incident.”

View Abstract