OT sanctioned after consuming alcohol at work

Conditions of practice order issued to OT who drank alcohol at work

Published on 26th February 2018

An occupational therapist has received a conditions of practice order after he attended work while under the influence of alcohol and drank alcohol at work.

Mr Jonathan Parish was employed by Bournemouth Borough Council as a Practice Manager when he attended work on 6 September 2016 and his colleagues found that his breath smelt strongly of alcohol. He was acting in a manner that was uncharacteristic and appeared agitated, unsteady, kept standing up and sitting down in the course of a meeting, and later stated that he had just been violently sick and needed to go home. 

Mr Parish’s colleagues had concerns regarding his welfare and on 7 September, Witness 1 conducted a search of his room in his absence. A toothbrush and some toothpaste were discovered in a drawer of his desk, and a thermal mug which belonged to him was found behind his desk on a low-level cabinet drawer.  Witness 1, Witness 2 and Witness 3 stated that the mug contained a brown liquid with a layer of clear liquid on top, which smelt very strongly of alcohol.

On the morning of 8 September 2016, Mr Parish returned to work and was questioned by Witness 1. He was asked whether he drank alcohol to excess and replied that he did not.  He refuted that he had been drinking alcohol at work, or that he had been under the influence of alcohol whilst at work, and claimed that the thermos mug smelt of rancid tea rather than alcohol. In the course of an internal investigatory interview held on 26 September 2016, Mr Parish continued to deny that he had ever consumed, or been under the influence of alcohol, in the workplace.

In his first interview at work following the incident, Mr Parish told his employer that he had shared a bottle of wine with his step daughter and her boyfriend. In the second work interview, he stated that he had consumed a couple of bottles of wine with his partner, step daughter and her boyfriend and had stopped drinking at 8.30pm.

At the HCPC hearing, he said that on the evening of 5 September 2016 he had consumed approximately three quarters of a bottle of wine with his fiancé and step daughter but that his step daughter did not drink alcohol. But in evidence before this Panel Mr Parish admitted that he had attended work whilst under the influence of alcohol, but denied that he had consumed alcohol whilst at work.

In cross-examination, Mr Parish admitted that after supper he had gone on to drink three “good glasses” of vodka with tonic, which he described as “larger than doubles”, and that he stopped drinking about 11pm. He denied that he had consumed alcohol whilst at work, and could not explain why the witnesses claimed that his mug smelt of alcohol, but surmised that this must have been the result of some fermentation process involving his tea. He said that his unusual behaviour on the day of the incident was the result of difficulties he was experiencing that day with arthritis, backache and a tummy bug.

Mr Parish said in evidence that since 8 September 2016, he had remained abstinent from alcohol. He provided the Panel with a print out of blood tests which he said showed that he had remained alcohol-free since the relevant date after he had been strongly advised not to drink due to the medication that he is taking for arthritis.

The Panel found that Mr Parish was lacking in credibility and his evidence was inconsistent over time. By the end of his evidence the Panel had formed the impression that it was being “drip fed” with information.

The Panel found proved that Mr Parish had attended work whilst under the influence of alcohol and that he had consumed alcohol whilst at work.

The Panel concluded that whilst there was no evidence that Mr Parish had caused actual harm, his actions had created the potential for harm, in that his job placed him in a position of responsibility in the screening of information and the making of decisions based on that information, and his overall responsibility for his team. The Panel concluded that whilst Mr Parish had claimed that he had remained abstinent in alcohol since the incident, he had demonstrated only limited insight into his behaviour, and there remained a real risk that he would repeat his behaviour if allowed to practise unrestricted.

The Panel concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of nine months would be sufficient to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold standards.


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