A SENIOR mental health nurse yesterday denied groping a colleague during shifts at a unit in Ebbw Vale, at a disciplinary hearing.

Robert Phillips allegedly touched the woman inappropriately as he gave her an oil massage at the Dan-y-Bryn Unit, a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel heard.

He is also alleged to have groped her against her will in a laundry room, the hearing was told.

It also heard the former builder allegedly called her a “dirty stinking Gipsy" because the hem of her trousers was dragging, and a "druggie" because she frequently used a nasal inhaler.

Yesterday, Phillips acknowledged hugging her on several occasions, but said others did it in his team at the time.

He also admitted giving her and a colleague a massage in a doctor's office during a night shift but said this had been prearranged by both of them.

He also accepted he may have called her a "Gypsy" and a "druggie", though he did not remember using these words, but said it was down to the "banter" he had been introduced to while working there.

Giving evidence to the panel yesterday he said: "I've never ever touched her inappropriately in any way.

"It was a well and happy team and we laughed and joked.

"She never gave me an impression she was unhappy with anything whatsoever."

He also accepted sending the woman, referred to as colleague A, a birthday text which read: "Happy birthday have to come over and give you a kiss X X X."

But he said he had automatically joined in with colleagues who had also sent her birthday texts.

He claims she made the allegations against him after he drew attention to her regularly being late at work and to get him sacked.

He was dismissed from the unit in February 2013, the panel's case presenter Gemma Kingswell told the hearing.

If Phillips is found to have acted inappropriately he could be struck off the nursing register.

The incidents allegedly took place at the Dan-y-Bryn Unit and Carn-y-Cefn Mental Health Acute Unit in Ebbw Vale between 2009 and October 2010 and between October 2010 and February 2013 respectively.

Phillips faces eight allegations of misconduct when he worked for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area.