A KILWINNING hospital worker stole over £1m of vital medical equipment - then sold it for just £70,000.

Heartless Daniel Dreghorn swiped a £1.3m haul over two years while working in the decontamination unit at Irvine’s Ayrshire Central Hospital.

The equipment taken included life-saving equipment used on cancer patients, which he then flogged to buyers in the USA and Hong Kong.

The 36-year-old, of Skelmorlie Road, was only caught when a patient complained to NHS Ayrshire and Arran about an operation being cancelled.

This was due to medics not having the appropriate equipment as a result of Dreghorn’s theft.

When police later raided his home, officers discovered some of the gear stashed in his hut. Dreghorn is now behind bars after he pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow last week. A judge was told how NHS Ayrshire and Arran do not have the funds to replace the essential equipment.

Lord Turnbull branded the crime “shockingly cynical” as sentencing was deferred until September.

Dreghorn was employed as a supervisor at the Central Decontamination Unit at the Irvine hospital. The unit sterilises all medical devices for theatres and clinics within the health board’s area.

The court heard how each item has a unique identification number, which allows it to be tracked around the hospital system.

But, prosecutor Bill McVicar told how – between October 2012 and July 2014 – Dreghorn managed to steal 136 pieces of medical equipment.

This included a device used on patients suffering from prostrate cancer. A camera – inserted into a patient to help a surgeon carry out treatment – was also amongst the stolen haul.

A stock take was carried out and it revealed a large quantity of equipment – totalling £1.28m - was missing. It was also discovered trays carrying the items had been scanned back in after use – but not the equipment.

Records showed Dreghorn was the supervisor on duty at those times.

Mr McVicar told the court: “Dreghorn stole the equipment prior to sterilisation. These specialist medical devices present a serious health risk if they are not cleaned, decontaminated and sterilised in the proper way.” The prosecutor said it was “quite possible” some patients the items had been used on could have had HIV or Hepatitis C. But, Dreghorn – despite having extensive training on infection control – decided to cash in by selling off the equipment.

He was initially held at his work in July last year and told police he “knew why they were there”. Dreghorn said he had £1,000 remaining in a PayPal account, but that the “rest had been spent”.

His computer, iPhone and iPad later revealed photos of medical equipment. There were also emails between Dreghorn and a Californian-based firm called United Endoscopy setting out “price negotiations”.

It emerged 57 parcels had been uplifted from Dreghorn’s home.

Mr McVicar said: “His bank statements show PayPal payments being paid into his account amounting to £70,000.” When detectives raided Dreghorn’s house, they found he had splashed the cash on expensive televisions, computers and games consoles. Police also discovered £40,000 of the stolen medical gear in Dreghorn’s shed.

Advocate depute Mr McVicar said the theft had resulted in a “more stressful working environment” for hospital staff affected by the crime.

He added: “From the existing tight budget, the health board is unable to fund the replacement of the stolen items.” Lord Turnbull told Dreghorn: “You have pled guilty to an offence which displayed shockingly, cynical conduct. This was a theft on a massive scale of sophisticated medical equipment.” Dreghorn showed no emotion as he was led in handcuffs to the cells.

Irvine’s MP Philippa Whitford, a former consultant breast surgeon at Crosshouse Hospital, described Dreghorn’s crime as “deplorable”.

The Central Ayrshire MP, who currently serves as the SNP’s health spokesperson, said: “I remember how shocked all the staff were when this came to light, that someone who worked for the NHS could steal from it in this way.

“Replacing the missing instruments is extremely costly and takes money away from patient care. This was a blatant and deplorable case of stealing from patients.