A nurse described as excellent in clinical practice killed himself after being suspended over stolen medicines he said he needed for his role in custody suites.
Lee James Hilton was found dead about a fortnight after suspension first by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and then G4S Medical Services, both of which employed the 51-year-old.
An investigation was due to be carried out after Mr Hilton took hydrocortisone, naloxone and haloperidol from a drugs cabinet at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, where he was working as a bank nurse. He told a colleague that they were for use in his work with the police.
At Stamford Town Hall last Thursday, a resumed inquest into Mr Hilton’s death was told that the medicines were not “abuse drugs” and two of them could feasibly have been used in his role as a custody suite nurse.
Mr Hilton admitted to his G4S manager, Gareth Price, that he had taken the drugs from the cabinet but said he was an experienced nurse and it had been “blown out of all proportion”. He had wanted them in case there was a “problem” in custody.
Mr Hilton also had cannulas said to have been given to him by an East Midlands Ambulance Service member of staff.
Mr Price warned him that he would not be covered if he did not follow G4S correct procedures.
“Lee felt this was an acceptable risk if it meant saving a life,” said Mr Price.
Mr Hilton’s reaction to being suspended by G4S – like the hospitals trust, on full pay – was “nonchalant”, telling Mr Price: “Whatever you feel is right, fella.”
The inquest also heard that Mr Hilton had had some drink problems in the past which had given rise to a couple of complaints at Pilgrim Hospital in 2011.
And a couple of weeks before his body was discovered at his home in Roman Bank, Holbeach Bank, on October 26, 2014, police spoke to Mr Hilton about a consignment of the prescription pain relief drug Tramadol, which he had ordered from India on the internet but which had been intercepted by Customs officials. He “explained that away” and no further action was taken, said Prof Robert Forrest, senior coroner for South Lincolnshire.
Nobody had any concerns about Mr Hilton’s state of mind and his death was a shock. In fact, Mr Price noted that his demeanour had been “better than he had seen it in the past” following an anaemic period brought on by what Mr Hilton described as a “catalogue of distressing events” in his life.
Mr Hilton left no note but an iPad found near his body had been used to research suicide methods using gas. That, plus the fact that as a nurse he would have known the consequences of his actions, led Prof Forrest to return a verdict of suicide.
Widow Sarah Hilton, who separated from him in September 2013, said: “He was a very kind, extremely intelligent person. He enjoyed being a nurse and was really hardworking.”
Mr Price said: “His clinical practice was excellent and it’s a privilege to have known him.”
Cause of death was propane toxicity.