Midwife in booze probe

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A MIDWIFE allegedly smelled of alcohol when she turned up to a home birth – after the father had delivered his daughter alone – a panel heard.

When Susan Hewitt did arrive and gave the newborn baby an injection her hands were apparently shaking so much the parents feared the needle would snap.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council committee also heard the on-call community midwife, when speaking to the family on the phone, bizarrely mentioned how she had to put away her kittens in a spare room before attending.

“As soon as she came close to me I could smell alcohol on her,” said the mum.

“At this point my first reaction was ‘Oh my God’, she’s been drinking.’”

Hewitt, a Chesterfield resident, did not attend the conduct and competence committee – which can impose sanctions including striking people off – and was not represented.

The hearing was told she denies four charges of misconduct and that her fitness to practice is impaired.

The committee heard Hewitt did not visit the mum for an initial assessment although she was in established labour.

But Hewitt claimed in later meetings that during the initial phone call the mum assured her that she had not needed her to attend at that time.

She also denied she had been drinking, saying she would never work or drive after consuming alcohol. And she refuted some of the parents’ version of events. The notion of cough medicine or alcohol hand gel she said she was using contributing to the smell was raised.

The panel was told she heard the mum struggling to talk on the telephone through regular contractions.

But the mum was told to call back when “the pain was unmanageable” and she herself thought the midwife needed to attend.

After a second call Hewitt said she would come over.

As she did not arrive soon enough or answer her mobile on a third call the dad delivered his daughter and helped her start breathing with the advice of a paramedic over the phone.

Hewitt – a former employee of Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – then arrived and sat in her car for a few minutes, the panel was told.

Once she was inside the door the dad noticed a strong smell of alcohol.

“I was concerned about the smell of alcohol at this stage however it occurred to me that it was better to have a midwife present who smelled of alcohol than no midwife at all,” he said.

The dad said Hewitt repeatedly asked his name but wrote it incorrectly, seemed “unprepared” and “under the influence”. She was described as giddy, laughing and making odd noises although she later calmed down.

He added: “I did not feel confident that she knew what she was doing.”

Soon after the dramatic birth, on February 20, 2008, a fellow midwife also claimed she smelled alcohol on Hewitt’s breath while they were in the Royal Hospital.

The parents made a complaint after speaking to other midwives.

The panel heard Hewitt took early retirement after the incident. The hearing continues.

Visit www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk for updates on this story.

ellen.beardmore@derbyshiretimes.co.uk