Sneak thieves target medical staff

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TODAY we reveal how despicable thieves targeted front-line medical staff as they attempted to save lives.

Shocking figures show hard-working doctors and nurses have had 88 items pilfered from them during the last six years.

Lockers were raided while surgeons performed in theatre and one medic even had their handbag stolen from an intensive therapy unit.

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The despicable thieves’ loot includes:

■ Christmas presents;

■ A drugs fridge;

■ Charity money from a chemo unit;

■ A surgeon’s trousers and phone;

■ Games consoles from children’s wards;

■ And even a commode.

Mike Hill, regional organiser for Unison, a union which represents hospital staff, has slammed the criminals responsible, saying hospital workers deserve to be treated with respect and not as the “target of opportunistic thieves”.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust revealed the startling details following a Freedom of Information request.

The figures are from 2005-2011 and detail belongings stolen from staff or from the buildings at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, the One Life Hartlepool medical centre, in Park Road, and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

Mr Hill said: “Theft of any kind is unacceptable, particularly so in a hospital environment where there are vulnerable people.

“Even though these figures are relatively low, the theft of personal items from lockers, bags, etc., show staff and patients are equal victims.

“Our members are entitled to work in a secure and safe environment and deserve to be treated with respect rather than as the target of opportunistic thieves.”

Peter Mitchell, the trust’s associate director for estates and facilities, said it is “disappointing” that a minority of people in care try and steal from those helping them, adding: “Unfortunately we can also fall victim to members of the public who are opportunist thieves.

“But it must not be taken out of context. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people we see and treat it is very small number who commit these crimes.”

Trust bosses said compared to theft from staff, theft of patients’ possessions are “negligible” and that all patients are advised to leave valuables at home.

Chief Inspector Lynn Beeston, of Hartlepool Police, said: “While the number of thefts is not a great number, even one theft is too many.

“In order to combat the number of thefts, we would advise patients and staff to leave valuable belongings that aren’t essential to take to hospital at home.

“We take all incidents of theft very seriously and will thoroughly investigate all thefts that are reported to us.”

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum, is calling on a review of hospital security following the revelations.

He said: “People are there trying to make a living and to help people so this must be very demoralising. It’s also obviously having an impact on resources.

“Theft should always be taken very seriously and always reported to police. What is happening is despicable.”

The Hartlepool Mail reported how callous crook Nicky Bower crept into the drugs room at Hartlepool’s Holdforth Road hospital and stole several packs of antibiotics.

The 28-year-old had been on ward five in the hospital with an abscess and was on a course of methadone for around four weeks.

Bower, of Cleveland Place, Peterlee, said he had seen the cupboard open and decided to “go inside and have a look” on November 1 last year.

After being caught on CCTV, he was given a 12-month community order with a six-month drug rehabilitation requirement after he admitted burglary at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court