Ebola 'hero' nurse accused of misconduct over Pauline Cafferkey temperature

Ebola 'hero' nurse accused of misconduct over Pauline Cafferkey temperature
Pauline Cafferkey

A nurse who helped fight Ebola faces being struck off after being accused of recording an inaccurate temperature on an airport screening form for a medic who had contracted the virus.

Donna Wood had returned to the UK from Sierra Leone along with Pauline Cafferkey, who survived the deadly disease, on December 28 2014, and the pair's group were caught up in the "chaotic" screening process at Heathrow Airport, a misconduct hearing heard.

Wood appeared before an independent panel at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in Stratford, east London, facing three misconduct charges, including recording the reading dishonestly in order to hide it from public health officials.

She is accused of writing down a temperature of 37.2C after a doctor, Hannah Ryan, had taken Ms Cafferkey's temperature twice, with readings of 38.2C and 38.3C.

A temperature above 37.5C required further assessment by doctors at the Public Health England (PHE) screening room, the NMC's Aja Hall said.

Delays in the screening process at Heathrow, which were the result of PHE staff being "not properly prepared" to handle the volume of at-risk visitors, meant Wood's group had begun taking their own temperatures, Ms Hall said.

Dr Ryan had taken Ms Cafferkey's temperature and found it to be elevated.

Reading the medic's statement, she said: "It was just me, Pauline Cafferkey and Donna Wood present.

"I took her temperature in her left ear - it was 38.2C. I showed it to Pauline, the thermometer.

"I told her to stay calm, we were both a bit panicky.

"Donna was recording the temperatures on the form.

"I took it again in the right ear - it was 38.3C. I asked Pauline if she was feeling OK, she said she was OK."

Dr Ryan then goes on to say "I stood there in shock, it was like I was paralysed. I had no clear thought process.

"Ebola is such a horrible disease, every time you have a high temperature you worry, even though you know there's no need."

Ms Hall claimed Wood suggested the reading was "artificial", after Ms Cafferkey told Wood she felt "warm" on the plane, which was attributed to the fact that the Scottish nurse had been sleeping in a hoodie during the flight.

Ms Hall continued: "Donna Wood broke the inertia by saying 'I'm just just going to write it down as 37.2C and then we will get out of here and sort it out'."

At some point at around 5pm Ms Cafferkey took paracetamol before she left the screening area, Ms Hall said.

After the group left the screening room and made it to the arrivals hall, Dr Ryan reported Ms Cafferkey's high temperature to another doctor, who recommended the Scottish medic return to be screened again.

Ms Hall said Ms Cafferkey's temperature was then checked again three times by a PHE consultant and was found to be a maximum of 37.6C, meaning she was given the all-clear to travel on to Glasgow.

The following day, Ms Cafferkey became "extremely ill" and was admitted to hospital, where she was diagnosed with Ebola.

Wood made no admissions to any of the allegations at Monday's hearing.

At the time Wood was a senior sister at Haywood Hospital in Staffordshire and was one of the first group of NHS medics to travel to West Africa.

She featured in the UK's Department for International Development's promotional campaign, when she was hailed as a "hero" by then international development secretary Justine Greening.

While in Sierra Leone, where the disease killed almost 4,000 people, Wood worked for Save the Children.

Ms Cafferkey was cleared at an earlier hearing in September of allowing the incorrect temperature to be recorded.

An NMC panel found three charges against her were not proven and her fitness to practise was not affected.

It ruled her judgment at the airport in December 2014 had been so impaired by the developing illness that she could not be found guilty of misconduct.

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