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Nurse allegedly swore at patients; And she is said to have drank on duty.

Byline: Kim Carmichael

A NORTHUMBERLAND nurse who allegedly downed drink at work and swore at an elderly patient faces being struck off.

Dawn Whittle allegedly drank while on duty at St George's Park mental health hospital, in Morpeth, the Nursing and Midwifery Council yesterday heard.

Whittle used expletives when she called an elderly man a "wuss" after he fell over during a confrontation and when she told a female patient it was "about time" she had "a shave", it is claimed. The 42-year-old also told a colleague to "deck" another patient after she pulled him out of a chair, the council heard.

Whittle, who did not attend the London hearing, faces a series of allegations dating from November 2006 until March 2007.

Deborah Baljit, for the NMC, said: "The first allegation against the registrant was made by Frances Watson, a support worker, on December 3, 2006.

"She reported that the registrant had been drinking alcohol while on duty.

"Over the course of the following few months other staff expressed concerns about Mrs Whittle and alcohol.

"On March 23, 2007, she was suspended from duty pending investigations into the allegations that she had been drinking alcohol on duty, and also concerns that she had used inappropriate language to staff and patients.

"In the course of the investigation further matters came to light to the effect that she had administered incorrect dosages of medication, that she had handed medication keys to unqualified staff and instructed them to fetch medication, and that she had repeatedly failed to administer medication to patients."

Gwen Palmer, who worked alongside Whittle at the Cresswell Ward, said she first suspected that she was drinking on duty towards the end of 2006.

"She seemed to stop drinking tea and coffee and took to drinking from a Lucozade or Lilt bottle which she carried around with her.

"On one occasion, I smelt on her breath what I thought from previously working in a bar was sherry.

"On a second occasion, I found the bottle and it smelt like whisky and lemonade."

Mrs Palmer recalled a series of incidents she had witnessed or been involved in where Whittle had either verbally or physically abused patients.

On one occasion in November 2006, Whittle is said to have used an expletive when she told a patient to "shut your mouth".

Mrs Palmer also told the hearing how on another occasion when a patient's drip had been dislodged, she watched as Whittle attempted to re-attach it six times before giving up and removing the drip completely. Mrs Palmer was asked why she had put in a complaint about Whittle and replied that said she felt she was "getting out of hand".

Whittle was dismissed from her post with the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust in May 2008 following an internal investigation into the allegations.

The nurse faces being struck off if the panel rules her fitness to practice is impaired by misconduct.

The hearing continues.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 7, 2010
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