AN ENNISKILLEN nurse has been suspended for 18 months for lying to her employers after she was caught drink driving on her way to work.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel heard how Bernadette Hannigan had “brought the profession into disrepute” after failing to tell her employer about the drink driving conviction.
The panel heard that after Ms Hannigan was stopped by police on the Irvinestown Road, Enniskillen, on December 16, 2012, she contacted the Western Trust claiming she had overslept than rang again 30 minutes later to say she was not attending work and would not be back the next day.
It was only when a Ward Sister was approached by a staff member who overheard it being discussed in a local shop that she became aware of Ms Hannigan’s drink driving charge.
The panel was told that a subsequent meeting was held between Ms Hannigan and the Ward Sister on January 10, last year, the day after she was convicted of the offence.
While she revealed she was charged with the offence, she failed to declare her conviction and Ms Hannigan was told to contact the Nursing and Midwifery Council because the terms of her employment stated that she is “required immediately to notify your Head of Department if you are convicted of a criminal offence, including road traffic offences”.
However, the Ward Sister was told that no notification was given to the NMC. Ms Hannigan was subsequently charged with being convicted of driving with excess alcohol, failing to disclose it to the Trust, failing to disclose it to the Nursing and Midwifery Council and dishonesty.
The report stated: “The panel heard that Ms Hannigan, when she was stopped by the police, was travelling to her workplace.
“The panel considered that had Ms Hannigan not been stopped by the police, she may have attended work whilst under the influence of alcohol which would have put patients at unwarranted risk of harm.
“The panel considered that Ms Hannigan’s conduct, in driving with excess alcohol and her failure to disclose the conviction to her employer and the NMC, brought the profession into disrepute.
“Nurses hold a position of trust, and there is an expectation that they should act lawfully, both in their personal and professional lives. To fail in this regard brings the profession into disrepute. “Further, the panel considered that, in dishonestly failing to inform her employer and the NMC about her charge and subsequent conviction, Ms Hannigan’s behaviour amounted to a breach of a fundamental tenet of the profession and demonstrated that her integrity could not be relied upon.”
Panel members were told by a NMC witness that at the time of the incidents, Ms Hannigan was suffering from health issues which may have impacted upon her conduct.
Ms Hannigan, who did not appear at the committee hearing nor had a legal representative present, was described as having a “long and unblemished nursing career of some 25 years”.
The panel considered an application from Rory Mulchrone – a legal representative for the NMC – for an interim suspension order for a period of 18 months while Ms Hannigan has a right to appeal their decision.
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