A school nurse who was caught boozing on the job has been suspended for at least a year.

Susan Dempsey was working at Sutton's Orchard Hill College for children with severe learning disabilities when colleagues spotted her filling up a water bottle with vodka.

Dempsey said the liquid in the vodka bottle was water but appeared to be drunk later in the day and was sent home.

The incident was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) which suspended her licence for a year, after which it will hold a review to check if she is fit to practise again.

An NMC panel made its decision based on evidence from colleagues at a meeting on Monday. One said Dempsey was spotted filling a plastic bottle from a vodka bottle with a red logo in September 2010.

Staff challenged Dempsey who denied she was drinking. She showed the vodka bottle to staff and told them it was water inside.

A report from the hearing in central London, says: "Ms Dempsey went down to the cellar later that day and Ms Dempsey was stumbling around, slurring her words and seemed to be unsteady.

"It appeared as if Ms Dempsey was under the influence of alcohol and that, at one point, Ms Dempsey spilt liquid from her water bottle onto the chair and it smelt of alcohol. [A colleague] stated it appeared Ms Dempsey did not seem very well so she suggested that she went home."

Ms Dempsey was employed at the school, which has centres in Wallington, Carshalton and Hackbridge, through Wallington-based agency Prestige Nursing which says she had worked for Orchard Hill on a regular basis and was highly thought of.

Simon Vines, senior vice principal at Orchard Hill, said: "The care and education of our students is of absolutely paramount importance.

"This agency nurse was part of a team of nine experienced staff. She was never alone with students and no-one was ever at risk."

A spokesman for Prestige Nursing added: "Given Ms Dempsey’s positive record before this point, the allegation was unexpected. However, following this incident, she was suspended. Since that point we have been unable to contact her, and she has not worked for us."