A HAMPSHIRE hospital worker has been jailed after stealing hundreds of pounds from vulnerable patients.

Kelly Barrow, 35, began stealing after her partner suffered a stroke and she was unable to pay the mortgage and family bills.

Barrow was a patient affairs administrator at Tatchbury Mount mental health hospital, in Calmore, and operated the patients’ bank so they could deposit or withdraw cash.

But Southampton Crown Court heard that she stole more than £3,600 from 11 patients by fabricating or falsifying documents about the amount they had withdrawn and pocketing the difference.

Bosses grew suspicious when she forged the signature of a ward manager authorising five cash withdrawls totalling £1,000 on Christmas Eve.

The manager knew she could not have signed the documents because she simply did not have the time.

Barrow also stole £660 from a patient who had withdrawn £1,160 from a high street bank by amending the sum deposited in the hospital bank account.

When questioned, Barrow tried to “pass the buck” onto patients, saying they had changed the amounts involved or she had made a genuine error, said prosecutor Andrew Evans.

Breach of trust Barrow resigned the day before she was to appear before a disciplinary hearing.

Mr Evans said of her conduct: “It is the patients’ vulnerability that represents the seriousness of this offence rather than the amounts taken and is exacerbated by the breach of trust of her employer and the patients themselves.”

Barrow, of Mercury Close, Southampton, admitted one charge of fraud by abusing her position in her job with the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

In mitigation, Graeme Logan told the court Barrow’s offending had been totally out of character, In 2010 her partner suffered a stroke that left him disabled and unable to work.

“She continued as best as she could, working as the patient affairs administrator and raising her two children with limited assistance. Undoubtedly things became very difficult financially and her income was outstripped by outgoings. She resorted to what she did to make ends meet.”

Jailing her for nine months, Judge Peter Henry told Barrow her offending represented a high breach of trust and she had persistently preyed on her victims.

The court heard Barrow had handed over a cheque for £700 as part compensation.

However, the judge rejected a prosecution application for her to meet the outstanding sum.