Nurse 'was drunk at work'

3:34pm Thursday 8th October 2009

A NURSE who went on a 12-hour bender before starting her shift and swigged sherry while on duty is waiting to hear if she will be struck off.

Shirley Fitzsimmons was seen stumbling around ward B18 at Warrington Hospital while drunk and even had to be sent home on a number of occasions, reeking of drink the Nursing and Midwifery Council heard today.

One day she was two hours late for work as she had been drinking.

The incidents happened when Fitzsimmons, aged 44, was working as a senior nurse on the B18 ward in 2006.

She was even granted a three month career break to sort out her alcohol problems but suspended after failing to attend appointments or update the hospital on her progress.

Senior nurse Jane Brookes, who investigated the matter, said in a statement read to the panel: “On January 4, 2006 I met Fitzsimmons following concerns raised by staff about her behaviour on the ward.

“It was reported she was stumbling around and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.

“I questioned her about it and at first she denied she had been drinking. She said she had been on anti-depressants over Christmas and that was why she was stumbling and slurring her words.

“But she later admitted she had been drinking from 5pm to 5am the day before.”

Ms Brookes offered Fitzsimmons help but she was adamant she did not have a problem, but she had sessions with an occupational therapist until March 2006 when she returned to work.

But on May 9 Fitzsimmons turned up for work two hours late smelling of alcohol.

Fellow nurse Carol McEvoy, who was working that day, said: “She [Fitzsimmons] was supposed to start work at 7am that day but when she hadn’t turned up I tried to get hold of her.

“It was a very busy morning on the ward as one patient was dying and I needed her to be there.

“She finally turned up for work two hours late. She had bruises, cuts and grazes all over her and smelt of alcohol.

“I called her into my office and asked her if she had been drinking. She denied it at first and said she had overslept after taking painkillers and going back to bed.

“But after constant questioning she admitted she had been drinking from 3pm until midnight the night before.”

The panel heard Fitzsimmons was sent home from work and given a written warning.

A month later, on June 17, she was caught swigging sherry from a plastic cup and a bottle of cider was found in her bag, but said she had confiscated it from her son that morning.

Later, however, she admitted she had been drinking and was ordered to take a three-month career break or face suspension.

She agreed but failed to attend appointments, provide evidence she was attending Alcoholics Anonymous or update the hospital on her progress.

She was then suspended.

Fitzsimmons is not at or represented at the London hearing, but admits working while under the influence of alcohol, smelling of alcohol, consuming alcohol at work and turning up two hours late for her shift between January and June 2006.

She further admits she did not adhere to the conditions of her career break, granted by North Cheshire Hospitals Trust, and that her fitness to practise as a nurse is impaired.

If found guilty of misconduct, she could be thrown out of the profession.

The hearing continues.

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