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Midwife found guilty of misconduct

A midwife who turned up for work smelling of alcohol has been struck off the UK register after the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found her guilty of misconduct.

Catherine Farmer-Mair, 56, lost her job after members of staff at a hospital raised concerns about her behaviour, a disciplinary hearing in Cardiff was told.

Staff at Neath Port Talbot's antenatal clinic gave evidence at the NMC hearing that Mrs Farmer-Mair had been talking loudly and giggling when she reported for work on the morning of 7 February 2005.

Beverly Hall, a healthcare support worker, and Helen Davies, a clerical officer, who both work at the clinic, also reported smelling alcohol on Mrs Farmer-Mair's breath.

The midwife was referred to Carolyn Williams, the assistant head of midwifery, and later sent home.

The NMC hearing was told that this was not an isolated incident and that Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust, which runs Neath Port Talbot Hospital, had supported Mrs Farmer-Mair for six years prior to the incident.

Linda Parkin, who was chairing the hearing, said: "The allegation is extremely serious and not an isolated incident.

"Further, the panel has not been informed of any rehabilitative or corrective steps taken by the registrant."

Mrs Farmer-Mair, who was given 28 days to appeal, did not attend the hearing.

Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust

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"Heaven forbid being loud and giggly in the workplace. I don't condone being under the influence of alcohol in work but maybe a period of suspension and a rehabilitation period would have produced a different outcome. I would like to think that my colleagues would have supported me through my time of need. One can only wonder if these colleagues sleep at night with the outcome they achieved. I wish this woman well and I think the outcome was very harsh" - Rosie, Midwife, Wales

"Whilst this sort of behaviour can not be tolerated,  I agree with other commentators in terms of where was the support for this midwife from her supervisor of midwives 'colleague'. It has to be said that Midwives are, in the main, a fantastic group to belong to. However there is such pressure within the profession that people are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals from Supervisory Midwives and Management - perhaps the pressures which were being applied to Ms Farmer-Mair this was her 'cry for help'. I am not trying to justify her behaviour and I do not support it, but I do think that to strike her off was a little on the harsh side.   I was also a Midwife who underwent supervised practice shortly after qualifying, my self esteem and my mental and physical health were tried to the absolute limit, I was, on reflection probably the subject of workplace bullying which was apparently renamed 'support' I was then told that had the situation arose with anybody else they would have been taken to one side and told quietly not to do it again but due to the 'way I was' they had to come down hard, on challenging this Supervisor of Midwives as to what exactly was meant by the comment the following day - she had conveniently forgotten saying it - When it came down to it, it was either my health and wellbeing or my career as a Midwife - I chose my mental and physical health.  It is a sad reality that in order to retain Midwives the profession must look at the way Midwives treat one another - regardless of where they are on the experience spectrum.  Maybe there is not enough of it to go around" - 
Helen Lewis RN (Adult) B.Sc. Hons , RM B.Mid (Hons)

I have to say that it is very sad that this midwife was not given the support she needed in what I can only imagine was a difficult time for her. It so typifies what I personally feel about our caring profession. Think of number one only, it's all about me, me, me. Doctors will always support one another. It is time nurses did the same. However it is sadly to late for this midwife' - Christine Rudra, Midwife

"The article does state that she was supported for six years prior to the incident. I feel very sorry for her. To be struck off for an illness is very hard. However I would think it is hard to help someone who perhaps does not want to be or is not ready to be helped. It is a well-known fact that for anyone to end an addiction they must be ready to do it for themselves. We don't know the whole case history. Maybe this will be the boost she needs to get her through the difficult situation and think about her future. I wish her well" - Name and address supplied

"A similar situation occurred to a friend of mine, many years ago. Her 'caring' colleagues ignored the situation, sending her home and eventually not renewing her contract with NO follow up. Consequently the drinking carried on and her marriage broke down. She was an excellent nurse who deserved better treatment" - Ingrid, Aberystwyth

"This midwife it appears had long standing problems, why was this allowed to continue? What support did she receive from her supervisors of midwives and were there any issues about her practice during this period? There is not enough detail to answer the questions. I agree with the previous comments relating to doctors. I have been in the NHS 26 years and the amount of stress related illness seen today is unacceptable. We need to do something about it now before it is too late. Are you listening Mr Health Secretary and Mr Prime Minister?" - Name and address supplied

"While her conduct was deplorable and unprofessional six years of such behaviour without having some sort of help and support from family friends or professionals beggars belief. One has to question the lack of intervention before the suspension. She is a professional and must behave as one." - Name and address supplied

"Who "cares"" for the caring profession? How sad after being in the profession for many years that this is what this poor woman will be remebered for. She should never have been struck off. I agree with the comment made that doctors would have been supported in this instance" - Name and address supplied

"There is absolutely NO EXCUSE to go to work under influence of alcohol. Being a Nurse she should have asked for help when she needed it. All of us have stress and go through difficult times" - Name and address supplied

"Obviously the public have to be protected from such practitioners and thus the strike off the register. However, the same care should be offered to the unfortunate midwife who should have been offered help. If this behaviour had been noted over a six year period it point out the lack of professional supervision and neglect by both her peers and superiors. The sentence was harsh as pointed out by another correspondent, the medical profession close ranks under the same circumstances and give help" - Name and address supplied

"Yes, it isn't professional but I agree that the trust should have helped beforehand if they knew that there was potential problem. Like most trusts these days it's not a case of helping, just get rid. There is no support from unions either despite all the money that they take from members. I think it's about time that the NHS looked after it's employees a bit fairer in this day and age. We get nothing, only a kick in the teeth when it suits. The powers that be incompetent if they are unable to recognise and deal with problems proactively. Where's the justice, is this the end result of the government's new NHS? GOD HELP US" - Name and address supplied

"The caring profession once again not caring about each other. I agree with all the other comments made" - Mal, Lancashire

"I do not think she should be struck off. She may be having some personal or work-related issues, which she was unable to deal with. The MNC should review this case" - Name and address supplied

"Yes we should protect the public and her colleagues were in a dreadful position. I agree with others, a doctor would not have been struck off. Could she not have temporarily been suspended?" - Name and address supplied

"She should have been supported with on-going treatment, not struck off. The medical profession is full of people with drug and alcohol problems but they need to be helped not punished. The BMA wouldn't treat doctors like this. I was under regular review by the NMC for my drug and alcohol addiction but fortunately I was already under a good team of health professionals who forced me into rehab and eventually I was able to work freely. The NMC certainly never gave me any help" - Name and address supplied

"What was done to support this midwife? I am not supporting what she has done, but were her problems addressed? Can we formulate care plans for our staff when we identify problems?" - Name and address supplied

"I just have to say that midwives have became scapegoats because the NMC have to set an example for any future cases, however to be struck off is rather a heavy sanction therefore the NMC should think a little more before ruining a person's livelihood and investigate the causes that create such behaviour. Maybe a change in NMC policy whereby a fine system could be used before members are struck off? - Name and address supplied

"I wonder if it would have been dealt with so severely had it been a doctor" - Name and address supplied

"A very sad case. Was she supported by the supervisor of midwives in this? Especially if this was not an isolated incident. What was the cause of her drinking? The job is driving many midwives to drink and stress related illnesses. Many of the younger midwives are leaving the professional, disillusioned with the NHS to do lower paid jobs but without the stress and responsibilities involved in being a midwife." - Name and address supplied

"I'm very sorry for my colleague. So far she was sent home that day, protecting the public, but to be struck from the registry, is hard. That does not mean that I approved of what she did." - Name and address supplied

"Without knowing all the details, perhaps more encouragement/support to attend rehab would have prevented the unfortunate outcome?" - Name and address supplied