A DOCTOR stole high-strength painkillers from a children’s ward to treat her own toothache.

Senior registrar Hannah Roberts’ career is in the balance after she swiped the prescription-only dihydrocodeine from areas only accessible to medical staff on the neo-natal and paediatric wards at Colchester Hospital.

Staff became concerned drugs were going missing and an internal investigation was launched.

In order to work out who was stealing them, access was changed from a keypad to a swipe card.

By cross-referencing whose keypad was in use when the painkillers were being stolen, it was discovered Roberts was the culprit.

Suspicions were also raised when she arrived at work and was acting so erratically she was sent home. Colleagues believed her actions were consistent with side effects of codeine use.

Roberts, 39, was arrested and the drug packaging was found in her car.

She admitted theft of £105.66 worth of the drugs from an employee during a 15 day period in June at a hearing at Colchester Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Roberts qualified as a doctor in 2003 and worked in London before moving to Colchester Hospital as a locum.

She began a fixed term contract at the hospital in March 2018.

Frank O’Toole, mitigating, said Roberts was facing “dire consequences” whatever punishment was handed down because a General Medical Council tribunal was pending where Roberts could be struck off.

“She worked in a busy ward with a busy workload and didn’t take any time off,” he said.

“She was totally dedicated to her profession.

“The only thing she neglected was herself.

“She is an extraordinarily bright, intelligent, caring woman.

“The issue appears to have started following a severe toothache.

“She bought over-the-counter painkillers which did not seem to do the trick.

“She should have gone to her GP for a prescription but didn’t want to distract from her own work.

“As a result, unfortunately, she drifted into a situation where she took medication from the cupboard.

“She knows what she was doing was wrong – she had taken a dreadful risk and it now comes home to bite.”

Chairman of the bench Martin Stuchfield said Roberts, of High Street, Halstead, had crossed a line.

“You could have so easily gone to the dentist – or even A&E – to receive treatment,” he said.

Roberts was given a 12 month community order and must complete 250 hours of unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay an £85 victim surcharge and £145 costs.