AN intensive care nurse accused of deliberately killing patients in her care lost her claim for unfair dismissal yesterday.

Former nursing sister Kathleen Atkinson was accused of withdrawing drugs and treatment from terminally ill patients in the early 1990s, hastening their deaths.

Mrs Atkinson, 52, of Stadium Villas, Wallsend, North Tyneside, who was sacked from her post at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), in Newcastle, claimed unfair dismissal following her sacking after a disciplinary hearing in 1996.

She was later arrested and charged following the deaths of three terminally ill patients at the hospital. The charges were later dropped.

In May 1997 Mrs Atkinson was charged with the attempted murder of two patients and incitement to murder a third in the intensive care unit. The charges were dropped in February 1998.

At an internal hearing with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, a panel, headed by trust chairman Sir Miles Irving rejected her appeal.

The allegations against her centred on the treatment of four patients who died at the RVI between February 1991 and October 1995.

An open verdict was recorded on the death of Mary Burdon, 69, of North Shields, North Tyneside in 1991, a verdict of natural causes on the death of Claire Marsh, 14, from Bearpark, County Durham, in 1995 and a verdict of accidental death in the case of Patricia Dryden, 15, of Blyth, Northumberland, in 1995.

In the case of Gladys Ward, 77, from Rochdale, Lancashire, he recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, contributed to by neglect following the unauthorised withdrawal of treatment.