A NURSE stole a morphine-based drug while working at Colchester General Hospital, it is claimed.

It has emerged she was caught after another member of staff noticed a bottle of the liquid in the controlled drug cabinet was not the same consistency as one beside it.

Bosses initially thought there was a problem with the batch, but when it was sent for tests, the results showed it had been diluted.

An agency nurse has been reported to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which has imposed an interim order.

The council will conduct its own investigation, while Essex Police is also investigating the claims after it was alerted in February.

Dee Hackett, director of nursing at the Turner Road hospital, said: “This is very rare.

“In my 33 years of nursing, I have seen it only very rarely, which is why our first thought was not that the drug had been tampered with.”

Meanwhile, it has also emerged the first member of staff has been suspended in connection with the fiddling of cancer appointment waiting times.

The employee was suspended after a whistle-blower raised concerns about bullying, harassment and manipulated waiting lists.

The allegations relate to the endoscopy and dermatology departments.

Dr Lucy Moore, chief executive of the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust which runs the Turner Road hospital, said: “An investigation was conducted into the claims and the response is the suspension of one member of staff.

“We are now reviewing what other staff we need to talk to, both to assure ourselves and patients and also to assess whether there are other areas that we need to review with a high level of scrutiny.”