A hospital worker was found in a pool of his own urine after a two-day binge on laughing gas in an operating theatre.
Jason Warner sneaked into the theatre on Saturday morning and was found the following Monday with the nitrous oxide gas mask still on his face.
He admitted hallucinating and taking so much gas at the Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, east Yorkshire he was ‘past caring,’ the Health Professions Council heard.
Sophie Kemp, for the HPC, said Warner joined the hospital in February 2007 and would assist anaesthetists during the sedation of patients.
He was supposed to be on call for the weekend of July 26 and 27 last year.
‘At approximately 2pm he finished the Saturday morning list and went into the cardio-thoracic suite of Theatre 2 to use nitrous oxide,’ said Miss Kemp.
‘He described going into the theatre department and inhaling the gas.
‘He said it was planned and he knew what he going to do. He admitted it gave him a feeling of euphoria. He experienced hallucinations.
‘He said that while under the influence of the gas he was passed caring.’
Ms Kemp said should there have been an on-call emergency, Warner had a ‘strategy’ for flushing out the effects of the gas by inhaling pure oxygen.
But Warner overdosed and was only found two days later.
In a statement Jackie Crow, who was also an occupational department practitioner at the hospital said she found Warner.
‘He was in a pool of his own urine, with anaesthetic circuitry held to his mouth.
‘He was propped against a wall with the nitrous oxide against his mouth and nose. I pulled the circuitry off and could smell gas.
‘I spoke to Mr Warner but he was unresponsive.’
Warner was taken to the toilet where he was cleaned up and given a fresh surgical gown.
Another colleague took him to the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.
Following the incident Warner admitted his addiction to the anaesthetic gas and said he had used it prior to the incident, but never while on duty.
He explained that laughing gas helped him cope with problems in his private life.
In October last year Warner faced a formal disciplinary hearing and was sacked
by the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust a month later.
Ms Kemp said: ‘It’s the council’s case that Mr Warner acted in a premeditated manner. He fully intended to abuse nitrous oxide after the Saturday morning surgery on July 26.
‘It’s of concern as it was clear he was using the gas over the course of the weekend before being found on the 28th. It’s also of concern as he failed to take into account the consequences of his actions, particularly the risk to emergency patients.
‘It appears he was fully aware of what he was doing and had his own strategy for dealing with the on-call situation.
‘If caught on call having abused the gas, he would flush it out using 100% oxygen. The panel may consider this suggests significant planning.’
Ms Kemp added his actions also amounted to theft and ‘significantly impacted’ on his fitness to practise as an ODP.
Warner, from Hull, is attending today’s central London hearing.
He admits taking nitrous oxide from Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust over two days in August last year and then inhaling the gas at work.
The ODP, also known as Daniel, denies a separate charge that his fitness to practise is currently impaired.
Warner told the hearing said he would take laughing gas but only after work and never on call.
He said he was aware of the risks to patients but became reckless as his personal life imploded.
In a voice breaking with emotion he said things changed in the middle of 2008.
‘The first time I did it [while on duty] I thought afterwards, what the hell am I doing? But the more I went down hill personally, the less I regarded the risk to patients.’
Warner then claimed his dismissal had been a blessing in disguise.
‘The event was a life changing experience because I released that at that time I needed help. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.’
Asked if he was still addicted to laughing gas he said his problems were a thing of the past.
‘I know in myself I can work in the vicinity of nitrous oxide and I will never abuse it again.’
Warner has been suspended for a year today after his behaviour was judged ’at the threshold of’ a striking off order
Ian Griffiths, chair of the HPC hearing, said although he was a man of previous good character, his ‘misconduct had put patients at risk’.
‘To take no further action would be wholly insufficient. The panel has determined that neither a caution order or a conditions of practise order would adequately protect the public.
‘The panel has considered that you’re at the threshold of a striking off order but it would not be appropriate to do so.
‘The imposition of a suspension order is both proportionate and appropriate to mark the gravity of misconduct.’
Mr Griffiths ruled that the order would run for one year after which his case would be reviewed by another HPC panel.
He added that by then Warner would have to show evidence of ‘continued abstinence from alcohol and drugs’.
Amanda Hart, for Warner, had argued that a conditions of practise order would be appropriate.
But the panel rejected the idea after hearing about Warner’s ‘addictive personality’ and past involvement with recreational drugs, mainly cannabis.