A nurse stole painkillers and wrote Christmas cards while patients waited in Northampton General Hospital’s accident and emergency.
Liza Hawes, from Northampton, has been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery council after a tribunal panel heard an A&E sister had to intervene to stop her writing cards while five patients waited for their initial assessments.
The month this happened, in December 2009, her department had failed to hit its targets for dealing with patients within four hours.
On another occasion, the following August, while Hawes was the only nurse assigned to the triage station in A&E, managers noticed the queue had again built up, with patients waiting for an hour.
While staff looked for Hawes, a public address announcement was made that the key to the medicine cupboard could not be found.
A colleague then said they had spotted Hawes with the cord for the key to the medicines cupboard hanging out of her pocket.
She was then searched and a security officer found she had coedine phosphate tablets stuffed in her bra and empty packets in her glasses case.
She admitted she had also stolen tablets four days previously.
Hawes admitted the theft matters to the NMC but denied the Christmas card incident.
Although Hawes’ unspecified health problems at the time were taken into account, the panel said she was still guilty of misconduct on all charges.
Hawes actions in ignoring the patients while writing Christmas cards “would be deplorable in the eyes of fellow practitioners”, the NMC judgement said.
Mrs Hawes claimed she could not remember writing the Christmas cards on duty. Despite being told Hawes’ integrity had never been questioned in 15 years, the NMC struck her off and imposed an 18-month interim suspension to cover any appeal. Matthew Fiander, the panel chairman, said in its published judgement: “Your actions spanned some eight months and cannot be categorised as ‘one-off’. The panel was satisfied that your actions placed patients at risk of serious harm.”