An inquiry has found patients’ personal details have been used to illegally access and steal drugs and medications in hospitals and health centres.

The Queensland Health Ombudsman investigated dozens of complaints about drug theft in the last financial year, and found patient details had been fraudulently used to steal the restricted or controlled drugs.

“For example, one practitioner working in a public health facility stole medication through an automated electronic dispensing system by entering legitimate patient details; the medication — which cannot be accessed without a patient's information — was neither prescribed nor dispensed to the patient, but taken by the practitioner for personal use,” the Ombudsman found.

Most thefts were found to be for personal use, with more than half being schedule 8 drugs — where possession without authority is an offence.

Most of the thefts involved nurses, but some were perpetrated by doctors, paediatricians, pharmacists and dental assistants.

The Ombudsman found health services had failed to self-regulate medications, and had missed most of the thefts in their auditing process.

“Drug control measures and audits frequently failed to identify theft of drugs, with most notifications triggered by scrutiny and vigilance from other staff members after observing anomalous drug movements or offending practitioners' suspicious workplace behaviour,” the Ombudsman found.

Several cases have been referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and others to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.