A nurse who was found to have deliberately concealed Pauline Cafferkey’s high temperature after the pair returned from volunteering to help fight ebola in Sierra Leone has been temporarily removed from the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.
Following the conclusion of a fitness to practise hearing today, Ms Wood will be suspended from working as a nurse for two months.
“Whilst the panel considered that dishonesty is extremely serious and unacceptable, the panel found that the dishonesty in your case was not premeditated”
When Ms Cafferkey arrived back at London’s Heathrow airport at the end of 2014, her temperature was high enough to require further medical assessment – at more than 38 degrees - but instead it was recorded on an official form as being lower than the threshold of 37.5 degrees.
She was cleared for onward travel to Scotland but was later found to have contracted ebola.
During an NMC hearing that took place over the past two weeks, Ms Wood, who was with Ms Cafferkey at the airport, was found to have said the temperature should be recorded as 37.2 degrees so they could “get out of here and sort it out”.
The panel concluded Ms Wood had acted dishonestly because she deliberately concealed Ms Cafferkey’s high temperature.
It found Ms Wood’s misconduct was serious because it could have contributed to the risk of ebola spreading in the UK, and also that she could have put Ms Cafferkey and others coming into contact with her at “unwarranted risk of harm”.
The panel added that she “should have known better than to act in such a way”.
However, it also recognised that this was an “isolated incident in an otherwise long and unblemished career”.
It also noted she had no previous referrals to the NMC, that colleagues had spoken highly of her integrity and professionalism, and it referred to the “selfless act” of volunteering to help ebola victims.
“The panel is satisfied that a period of suspension is a proportionate response and is sufficient to satisfy the public interest”
The “stressful and exhaustive” circumstances surrounding the event and the “less than ideal environment” in the screening area at the airport were also highlighted by the panel.
After considering these factors, the panel chose not to strike off Ms Wood, but to instead suspend her for two months.
It said it considered a longer period of suspension but that his could unduly damage Ms Wood’s career and would be punitive.
“Whilst the panel considered that dishonesty is extremely serious and unacceptable, the panel found that the dishonesty in your case was not premeditated but a momentary lapse of judgment,” it said.
”Your conduct is not fundamentally incompatible with resuming your practice as a nurse at the end of the period of your suspension”
“The panel is satisfied that you are of good character and your nursing record is otherwise exemplary. The panel also took into account the exceptional circumstances at the time of the events.
“Although you did not admit to the dishonesty, in your oral evidence, you had accepted that such conduct would have been considered as dishonest,” it added.
“The panel is therefore satisfied that a period of suspension is a proportionate response and is sufficient to satisfy the public interest.
“It determined that your conduct is not fundamentally incompatible with resuming your practice as a nurse at the end of the period of your suspension, and subject to any future decision made by a panel of the [NMC’s] conduct and competence committee at a review hearing,” concluded the panel.
Ms Cafferkey also faced allegations of misconduct earlier this year, but an NMC panel cleared her of all charges after it found her actions were the result of illness and exhaustion.
A volunteer doctor, who was with the two nurses when Ms Cafferkey’s temperature was wrongly recorded, is understood to be under investigation by the General Medical Council and is due to appear before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in March.