Salisbury doctor suspended after ‘self-injecting’ drug while on shift

A DOCTOR has been suspended after stealing drugs and injecting herself “to give energy” during shifts at Salisbury District Hospital.

Dr Suzanne Ling was suspended last year for raiding equipment stocks.

She has now had her suspension extended for a further year by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal, as she displayed “only limited insight” into the “gravity” of her misconduct.

Dr Ling was first caught when a registrar noticed purple bruises on her hand – before finding a brown paper bag with used cannulas and “sharps” in her coat pocket.

At the time of the alleged events, Dr Ling worked at an ST2 in Paediatrics at Salisbury District Hospital, where she started in May 2016.

Multiple counts of theft

The incidents took place between around September 2017 and 24 October 2017.

It was alleged, and subsequently proved, that while working at Salisbury Hospital, on one or more occasion, Dr Ling stole one or more of cannulas, a syringe, and a drawing needle, and injected herself while on duty.

It was also alleged and proved that Dr Ling knew that she did not have permission from the Trust to take these items and that those actions were dishonest.

Dr Ling was suspended by the hospital in 2017 and police searched her house and questioned her – although they eventually dropped the case.

In February 2019, the Trust investigation concluded that although there was no direct evidence of Dr Ling stealing, there was “sufficient indirect evidence that she probably had done so”.

When Dr Ling was interviewed by the General Medical Council in 2019 she admitted “self-injecting” to keep her focused during her work.

She said: “I made a huge error. I took [unnamed drug], needles, syringes and cannulas, from the paediatric ward, of Salisbury District Hospital.

“I self injected [the unnamed drug], on more than one occasion, usually whilst working.

“I did this because it gave me the energy boost, and focus, that helped me cope with long, and variable hours. I know this was wrong, and I accept that it is my own, and no one else’ fault.”

‘Disregard for her patients and colleagues’

The 2020 tribunal found that there were multiple counts of thefts from the Trust and dishonesty by Dr Ling.

It said that Dr Ling was given many opportunities during the Trust investigation, and during the police enquires, to tell the truth, but did not do so until the investigation by the General Medical Council.

The Tribunal said that the theft alone was serious, but added that it compounded by the fact that Dr Ling then used those items to inject herself while on duty in the Hospital.

The Tribunal’s decision said: “This disregard for her patients compounded the seriousness of her actions, and Dr Ling also showed a disregard for her colleagues in that she placed the items taken into the coat pocket of another colleague.

“Not only could a colleague have been injured when the items were discovered but it also had the potential to cast suspicion and embarrassment to that colleague by potentially implicating them in her misconduct.”

Dr Ling ‘brought the medical profession into disrepute’

The ruling goes on to to say that the tribunal considered that Dr Ling’s actions of dishonesty and theft “had brought the medical profession into disrepute”, and that there was “a significant risk of repetition.”

It said: “The 2020 Tribunal considered that there had been a serious breach and that Dr Ling’s repeated dishonesty could be considered as being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration, both in the public interest and in order to maintain proper professional standards.”

The Tribunal determined that the suspension on Dr Ling’s registration for a further 12 months would allow her “the necessary time to demonstrate she could take positive steps towards remediation”.

Dr Ling also responded to the tribunal, though she did not give oral evidence under oath.

She said she felt guilty she could not help her colleagues or patients during the pandemic.

And she insisted she was taking the matters seriously.

Another review will take place near the end of this 12 month period.

To read the tribunal’s decision in full, click here.

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