A STUDENT nurse who stole bank cards and details from “seriously ill” and vulnerable patients has been handed a two-year suspended prison sentence.

While working at Bradford Royal Infirmary last year, Ruth Daniel, of Third Street, Low Moor, committed a “grotesque breach of trust” by taking ill patients’ bank cards.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals called the case "despicable", and said her employment will now be reviewed urgently.

The 28-year-old used the cards to buy ‘click and collect’ items from Asda, and also other items at other shops using contactless payments, as well as one Amazon order.

In total, she stole more than £1,100 from three patients and one fellow member of staff.

She pleaded guilty to four offences of fraud and two of theft at Bradford Crown Court, and also admitted to ten additional offences - seven of fraud and three of theft, totalling £3,970 - at the hearing, taking the total amount stolen to more than £5,000.

Prosecuting, Philip Adams said Daniel “abused her position to steal from and defraud vulnerable patients and staff”.

The first victim was a friend of Daniel’s grandmother, a topic she had used to grow close to the patients.

Daniel searched through the lady’s handbag, obtaining her bank details, which she used to make five purchases from Asda, costing a total of £725.

The second victim was a fellow nurse. Daniel stole her bank card from her handbag which had been left in a secure staff room, and used it to make eight contactless purchases totalling £173.

The third victim had been suffering from a life threatening illness and was “seriously ill”, Mr Adams said.

Daniel stole her bank details and made two purchases from Asda, one for 15p - “a trial run”, Mr Adams said - followed by another of more than £100.

The amount equated to the victim’s entire pension for that period. Mr Adams said the victim had suspected Daniel after she had been “over-friendly” towards her.

The fourth victim had been rushed into hospital for an emergency operation, and as “clearly in a vulnerable condition”.

Mr Adams said: “Daniel insisted on locking her valuables in the bedside locker, and kept hold of the key.

“She then went into the locker and stole a card and other details and used them to make various fraudulent transactions, and a further one on Amazon.

“She admitted all the offences to police, and said she was experiencing an adrenaline rush.

“This is a clear abuse of a position of power and trust, and the victims were vulnerable patients.”

Emma Downing, in mitigation, said Daniel was “deeply ashamed of her despicable, disgusting behaviour”.

She said Daniel had developed a gambling addiction that was “spiralling out of control”, and had been gambling away her entire wage. The money stolen had been spent of Daniel’s two daughters, aged eight and four, Miss Downing said.

She added when Daniel told her partner what she had done he left her immediately, and had already sought help with her addiction and mental health.

In sentencing, Judge David Hatton QC said: “You said you are deeply ashamed of your conduct and it’s right you should be.

“These were despicable offences. Those patients you defrauded were highly vulnerable people, and each offence involved a grotesque breach of trust.

“Although objectively they were not large amounts, they were substantial to the people involved, and has caused them significant distress.

“You have shown clear, genuine remorse and will almost inevitably lose your career, and it may be difficult to obtain employment in future, but you only have yourself to blame.

"But, I have to take into account the effects of a prison sentence on your children.”

Judge Hatton handed Daniel a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered her to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work and attend 20 rehabilitation days.

Karen Dawber, chief nurse at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a despicable crime which betrays the trust patients and other people rightly have in our NHS.

“Thankfully, such criminal acts are very rare and do not reflect the extremely high professional standards and compassion of our nursing staff.

“As soon as we became aware of a potential crime we alerted the police, supplying them with CCTV footage and other evidence we had.

“The member of staff was suspended from duties and, following the conclusion of the court case today, the trust is now in a position to review the conditions of employment as a matter of urgency; until this has been concluded the member of staff remains suspended from work.

“We have a zero tolerance approach to crime and will continue to work closely with the police to ensure that our security measures are strong and regularly assessed.

“Patients, visitors and staff are encouraged to be vigilant at all times and to report anything suspicious to healthcare staff present on the wards or direct to the hospital security office.”