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NMC case over Cafferkey temperature reveals volunteer medic also facing charges


A disciplinary hearing in which a nurse has been accused of misconduct after the temperature of Pauline Cafferkey was wrongly recorded shortly before she was diagnosed with ebola has revealed a volunteer doctor will also go before a tribunal in a related case next year.

At a fitness to practise hearing in London that began yesterday, nurse Donna Wood was accused of hiding Ms Cafferkey’s temperature from officials at a screening area in the capital’s Heathrow Airport when the pair and the doctor returned from volunteering in Sierra Leone at the end of 2014.

donna wood

donna wood

Donna Wood, who volunteered during the ebola outbreak. Source: Simon Davis/DFID

According to evidence heard during an earlier FtP case against Ms Cafferkey in September, when she arrived back in the UK on 28 December 2014 her temperature was taken twice by the doctor in the screening area.

It was found to be 38.2 and 38.3 degrees – higher than 37.5 degrees, the point at which further assessment is required.

The two temperature scores were read out to Ms Cafferkey and Ms Wood. But they ended up being recorded on Ms Cafferkey’s screening form as 37.2 degrees – within the normal range – and she was able to continue her journey to Scotland.

During the case against Ms Cafferkey, the doctor claimed Ms Wood stated at the time she would record 37.2 degrees on the official form and they would “get out of here and sort it out”.

But Ms Cafferkey said she recalled the words “let’s get out of here” being used, but could not remember who said it or who entered the temperature on her screening form.

Ms Cafferkey was cleared of all charges, after it was concluded her illness had impaired her ability to alert heath officials to her symptom of a high temperature.

But Ms Wood’s ongoing case sees her facing three charges. She has been accused of concealing Ms Cafferkey’s temperature from official Public Health England staff, of doing this dishonestly because she knew it was above 38 degrees, and also of failing to escalate the information about Ms Cafferkey’s high temperature.

The NMC has claimed Ms Wood’s fitness to practise “is impaired by reason of your misconduct”. However, it is understood that Ms Wood’s representative at the hearing denied the charges on her behalf.

Meanwhile, during evidence presented during the ongoing case, it was revealed that the doctor who took Ms Cafferkey’s temperature will also face a professional hearing next year, according to media reports.

Dr Hannah Ryan, who volunteered in Sierra Leone in her first year after graduating from medical school, returned from Sierra Leone with Ms Wood and Ms Cafferkey at the end of 2014.

The screening area of Heathrow Airport was “busy, disorganised and even chaotic” during this time, according to various witnesses.

The hearing heard that although the two nurses and doctor had been asked to fill in a PHE form and wait for a PHE medic to take their temperature, they decided to record their own temperatures amid the chaos.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey speaks of anguish over NMC case

Pauline Cafferkey

According to media reports, Dr Ryan said she was in “shock” after taking Cafferkey’s temperature and releasing it was high.

“I asked Pauline if she was feeling OK? She said she was feeling fine,” Dr Ryan told the hearing in a written witness statement.

According to the reports, Dr Ryan said that only the three of them were present and claimed that Ms Wood “broke the inertia by saying something like, ‘I’m just going to write it down as 37.2 degrees’ ” so they could “get out of here and sort it out”.

But Ms Wood’s lawyer suggested Dr Ryan’s memory of events was “highly flawed” because she said she could not remember whether she had said Ms Cafferkey’s temperature out loud to Ms Wood or had shown her the thermometer, media reports have said.

Due to Ms Cafferkey’s temperature being wrongly recorded on the PHE form, she was allowed out of the screening area and into the arrivals section of the airport.

But, in the meantime, Dr Ryan went on to inform another volunteer doctor returning from Sierra Leone about Ms Cafferkey’s temperature, who then advised Ms Cafferkey not to fly on to Scotland.

Ms Cafferkey then returned to the screening area and had her temperature taken three further times. However, she had taken a paracetamol at some point and this was not explained to the doctor. Only one of the three readings was above the threshold of 37.5C, and she was allowed to return home.

Dr Ryan is understood to be under investigation by the General Medical Council and is due to appear before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in March.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Both the other nurse and the doctor should be disciplined: they failed to act correctly over a temperature recording [a procedure which a care assistant, or a student nurse, should be competent to perform], where a possible diagnosis of ebola was concerned: highly, highly irresponsible.

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  • Sorry to be unpopular, but there were three professionals involved here. I appreciate Pauline Cafferkey was cleared due to impairment of her judgment, as a result of the Ebola virus, however her judgment was not sufficiently impaired to allow her to check in for her flight to Scotland, find her way to the gate (I assume unassisted as to do otherwise would have raised major alarm bells), board the flight, disembark at the other end, find her way to the luggage hall and exit the building. Perhaps the NMC feared a backlash had they found her guilty of misconduct? All three of them are responsible, regardless of the findings of the NMC hearings.

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