A mother who deliberately contaminated her daughter’s urine samples with her own blood to try to convince doctors the youngster was ill has been jailed for 28 months.

The 32-year-old from Stevenage, who has a history of emotional problems and drug and alcohol abuse, took blood using syringes and used it in samples she gave to doctors at both the town’s Lister Hospital and London’s specialist Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children.

The fake samples were only proven when tests showed they contained DNA belonging to two people and syringes and a plastic cup with blood in it were found in patient toilets at the Lister in Coreys Mill Lane.

At Cambridge Crown Court on Tuesday, prosecutor Samantha Cohen said the behaviour was the mark of a mental health condition called Munchausen syndrome by proxy – also often known as ‘fabricated or induced illness’ – a relatively rare form of child abuse where parents attempt to fake or exaggerate illnesses in their children.

The court heard how the little girl, then aged five, had suffered from a genuine illness that had caused some damage to her kidneys.

In February 2013 she was taken to the Lister where she was given antibiotics and discharged after a week.

Two days later her mother – who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child – rushed her back to A&E claiming she was in pain and had blood in her urine.

She was sent to see a Great Ormond Street consultant who concluded she had suffered some damage to her kidneys because of the previous infection, but that she was improving.

He was considering discharging her, but her mother reported her symptoms were getting worse and provided a urine sample which had blood in it.

At a June appointment the mother provided another urine sample with blood in it.

A biopsy – which involves inserting a large needle into the kidney and removing a small amount of tissue – was ordered, and the court heard that the procedure comes with a risk of haemorrhage or infection.

That test came back normal, so staff began to watch the mother and daughter closely.

When the mother rushed her child to Lister – just hours after she had been discharged from Great Ormond Street – and handed in another bloody urine sample, suspicious staff found a plastic cup containing blood and a pair of syringes in the toilets.

The woman initially denied child cruelty but changed her plea on the first day of a scheduled trial.

Ms Cohen said the behaviour caused “a high level of harm” for the child because of the physical pain and danger caused by the biopsy and the fear caused by the repeated medical appointments.

She added that the mother’s actions had taken up scarce medical resources that other children could have needed.

The court was told that the woman had become caught in a spiral of domestic abuse, relationship breakdown, and drug and alcohol problems, and added she was “not really in control of what she was doing”.

But Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said: “I have to think about the what the public would think if I didn’t pass a custodial sentence on someone who has caused harm to a child and taken up medical resources that could have been available to other children.”

He said she could expect to serve half of the 28-month sentence in custody.