Arrest in Stepping Hill patient deaths probe

DETECTIVES investigating the deliberate contamination of products at Stepping Hill Hospital have arrested a man on suspicion of tampering with medical records.

A 46-year-old male nurse was arrested earlier today under Section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act, namely unlawfully or maliciously administering or causing to be taken by another person any poison or destructive or noxious thing so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.

On January 3, staff at Stepping Hill Hospital reported that medical forms had been altered overnight.

As a result it is believed one patient was administered additional amounts of medication. This person was carefully monitored by hospital staff and since been discharged.

At this time the arrested man is being questioned in relation to these matters only.

As part of the wider operation detectives are investigating the deliberate contamination of products at Stepping Hill Hospital after incidents of hypoglycaemia on two wards at the hospital between June 1 2011 and July 15 2011.

Twenty people are now believed to have been deliberately poisoned, the cases of 21 patients who suffered hypoglycaemic episodes are not being treated as suspicious and investigations are ongoing in relation to another.

Of those poisoned, four people have died: Tracey Arden, Arnold Lancaster and Derek Weaver died shortly after their hypoglycaemic episodes. A fourth patient, an 82-year-old man, died on Saturday December 31 2011.

Investigations to establish their cause of death and any link to the poisoning are continuing.

Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney, said: “This is and always has been a search for the truth.

“It is due to the diligence of staff at the hospital that we were made aware about the potential tampering of medical records and everyone should be reassured that, like the hospital, we initiated a swift response and have consequently arrested a member of staff in relation to this matter.

“I must stress that at this time he is only being spoken to in relation to these matters and as we have previously said we will not and cannot rule out making further arrests in the coming days or weeks.

“I cannot stress enough just how complex an investigation this is and is one that we continue to commit significant resources to.

“I know relatives of the confirmed victims affected and the public in general continue to seek answers and we are working as quickly as we can to provide them without jeopardising the quality or integrity of the investigation.

“For obvious reasons I cannot go into detail about the ongoing work we are doing but would like to take the opportunity to thank the hospital and staff for their continued and unreserved cooperation.”

Anyone with information relevant to the investigation is asked to call the incident room on 0161 856 2480.

Chris Burke, Chief Executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stepping Hill Hospital said;

“We are aware that Greater Manchester Police has arrested a 46-year-old man on suspicion of tampering with prescription charts.

“Because of highly experienced doctors and nurses immediately spotting the changes on prescription charts, no patient has been harmed.

“The police were called as soon as the prescription chart changes were discovered via our routine good practice.

“We are appalled by the malicious intent of this act, but thanks to the skill and experience of our staff it was spotted and reported immediately, and most importantly we ensured no patient suffered any ill effects.

“This criminal act does not reflect on the good care provided by dedicated and committed staff and the effective working practices in our hospital. The safety of our patients remains our highest priority.

“As no charge has been made, it is important to note that police are continuing with their inquiries. We continue to support the police in this on-going investigation.”