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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Nurse jailed for using dying patient’s bank card to go on spending spree

A hospital nurse was jailed for 14 months yesterday after she went on a spending spree with a dying patient’s bank card.

Leanne Wallace, 40, targeted weak and vulnerable Leslie Rushworth, 84, as he lay seriously ill with problems including pneumonia and anorexia.

While he was under her care, she took a bank card from his wallet and used it to pay off a £900 loan, buy a £699 bed, spend £74 on wallpaper and buy items on Amazon, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Days later, Mr Rushworth was transferred from University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton to a hospice, where he died.

The judge, who jailed her, said Wallace had “damaged the reputation of care workers in this country.”

The crimes came to light after Mr Rushworth’s son noticed a message from the bank on his father’s phone about suspected fraud.

He initially dismissed it as spam, but the family investigated when further messages followed.

He found the order for the bed and discovered it was due to be delivered to one of his father’s nurses.

Wallace initially denied responsibility and the court heard she had wiped data from her phone.

She then lied by claiming Mr Rushworth had generously offered to repay her loan, and after talking about her needing a new bed he ordered one for her.

Police found no evidence of searches for any of the items on the patient’s phone or iPad.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said all of the money had since been returned to his family, but the crimes had a ‘significant impact on the family in the last few days of their father’s life’.

Wallace, of Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by abuse of position when she first appeared in court last month.

Stephen Constantine, in mitigation, said his client was ‘disgusted, devastated and disappointed’ with her own behaviour and she had shown ‘some degree of understanding and remorse for the upset and pain that she had caused Mr Rushworth’s family’.

Mr Constantine said it happened when Wallace faced financial problems following the breakdown of her marriage. 

She had lost her hospital job but had a new role as a carer.

Passing sentence, Judge Howard Crowson said: ‘This was an appalling abuse of trust. You were entirely selfish. You ruined the family’s final hours with their father.’

The judge said Mr Rushworth was ‘rarely in any fit state to do anything for himself, he was barely able to communicate’.

He added: ‘There was no possibility of him using his bank accounts, he was simply a vulnerable victim.

‘I find it very hard to understand that desperation led you to this. Desperate people seldom consider purchasing a £700 bed. That looks more like greed. You have damaged the reputation of care workers in this country.’

In an earlier interview, Mr Rushworth’s son Guy, 46, said: ‘I’m astounded that a human could do this and particularly somebody who was in charge of his care.

‘The nurse and everyone in that team knew there was only one way out of that hospital. 

‘That was into a hospice or a coffin. He was literally dying and that was known.’

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