Nurse blamed slimming pills for being ‘off her face’

Forth Park hospital
Forth Park hospital
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A NURSE blamed slimming pills after she arrived at work so heavily under the influence of drugs that colleagues said she was “off her face”.

Lisa Cunningham repeatedly turned up to work in a dishevelled state and was unable to hold a conversation or perform basic tasks, nursing watchdogs were told.

Colleagues at Forth Park Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife, described her as “off her face”. She let a patient’s oxygen supply run out and said another was ready for discharge when they were not fit to be released.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing barred her from the profession after finding eight charges of misconduct against her proven, while she admitted a further eight charges.

Ms Cunningham was not present at the hearing in Edinburgh last week, but in 
correspondence with the NMC, she claimed slimming pills and eating very little may have caused her behaviour.

In November 2005, Ms 
Cunningham’s senior charge nurse noticed a change in her appearance.

The NMC panel said: “She had previously taken pride in her appearance whereas now, on occasion, she arrived on-shift with her uniform un-ironed and her hair unwashed.”

At a staff ward meeting that month, she showed “erratic” behaviour and was slurring her words and making inappropriate jokes, the panel said.

In February 2007, at the hospital’s gynaecology ward, Ms Cunningham did nothing to 
assist on the ward for an hour.

Another nurse “described Ms Cunningham as being very loud, agitated when talking to all staff and patients, not being able to keep still and having trouble holding a conversation,” the panel said.

She was also seen completing discharge forms for a patient who was in no fit state to leave the hospital.

In April the same year, Ms Cunningham had to be sent home early from a shift because of her erratic behaviour, with a colleague saying she was “swaying, with exaggerated hand gestures”.

She also turned up late for the same shift, blaming her arrival on a car crash, of which police later said they had no record.

Later, in April 2007, she again turned up while under the influence of drugs, and was unable to perform a “relatively easy” procedure due to her poor co-ordination.

But the nurse denied being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, saying she had been taking slimming pills.

The panel said: “Ms Cunningham said that in May 2005 she started to take slimming tablets and was eating very little, and suggests that this may have been the cause of her behaviour.” Ms Cunningham, who was later sacked by NHS Fife, also said she was going through a difficult period in her personal life in February 2007.

The panel added: “It was clear that all the witnesses thought that Ms Cunningham was initially an excellent nurse and it was apparent that there was a reluctance both at the time and at this hearing to make allegations against her.”