ANYONE taking laughing gas stolen from Borders General Hospital will put their lives at risk, police and NHS Borders have warned.
A number of canisters of nitrous oxide, used as an anaesthetic, were lifted from the pharmacy department of Borders General Hospital last Thursday morning, 3½ hours after an attempted theft of another canister of the gas from the dental department of Hawick Community Hospital.
Despite media speculation after similar thefts across Scotland, it is believed the gas cannot be used by boy racers to improve the speed of their cars, but it is dangerous if taken as a recreational drug.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “It has either been stolen to sell on the canisters as scrap metal, or they are using the laughing gas itself.
“Anyone taking the gas would be risking their lives and should not do so.
“These thefts have been happening across Scotland so we have been trying to share information with colleagues in other forces and in the health authority.”
Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Borders, said: “NHS Borders is supporting Lothian and Borders Police with their inquiries and we would strongly encourage anyone with any information in relation to these thefts to contact the police immediately,” he said.
“The stolen gas is used for medical purposes and could have significant risks for an individual if abused.
“We are ensuring that our remaining gas cylinders are securely stored pending the installation of improved alarm systems. We are also considering what other security measures may be necessary, including the possibility of increasing CCTV coverage.”
The spokesman added: “Anyone who remembers seeing anything suspicious at either the Hawick Community Hospital or Borders General Hospital is asked to contact police immediately.”
Police particularly want to track down a light-coloured Ford Focus, seen near Hawick Community Hospital between 2.45am and 3.05am last Thursday, immediately after the attempted theft.
The spokesman said the gas thefts were the latest in a series of opportunistic robberies across the Borders.
He said: “There have been a spate of slip-in thefts. If you see someone unfamiliar in your area, or an unfamiliar vehicle, possibly with a trailer, get in contact with the police. We can then check it out.
“When we are investigating a theft we are finding people telling us information two or three days later. If we had that information at the time, it would greatly help our efforts to stop the crime from taking place.
“People can do simple things such as check doors and windows are locked before they go to bed, and don’t leave any valuables on display so they can be seen.”
Anyone with any information on the laughing gas break-ins can contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 311 3131, or the charity Crimestoppers in confidence and anonymity on 0800 555 111.