Inquiry hears registrant recorded lower temperature for Pauline Cafferkey and said 'let's get out of here'

Inquiry hears registrant recorded lower temperature for Pauline Cafferkey and said 'let's get out of here'
File photo of Pauline Cafferkey.

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey has been accused of allowing an incorrect temperature to be recorded during a "chaotic" screening process on returning to the UK.

The Scottish medical worker, 40, was infected with the virus while working in Sierra Leone in December 2014.

The nurse, from Cambuslang near Glasgow, is also accused by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of leaving the screening area at Heathrow without reporting her true temperature and not declaring that she had taken paracetamol.

A hearing at the NMC in Edinburgh got under way on Tuesday and is examining the allegations.

But the panel hearing the misconduct case has been urged to strike out any allegation that Ms Cafferkey acted with dishonesty.

Anu Thompson, for the NMC, told the hearing that the Scot was at that time in the early phases of an "extremely serious virus" and quoting from a medical report, said her "ability to make decisions and reason properly were affected at the relevant time".

She said the "dishonesty test has not been met" as "her actions were not actuated by dishonesty".

It was stated that Ms Cafferkey was among a group of doctors and nurses returning to Heathrow after a six week deployment to Sierra Leone in 2014.

But the hearing heard that screening staff from Public Health England (PHE) at the airport "were not properly prepared to receive so many travellers from at risk countries" and this resulted in it being described as "busy, disorganised and even chaotic".

Ms Thompson continued: "The mischief in this case is that Ms Cafferkey, realising she had an elevated temperature, allowed an incorrect temperature to be entered on her screening form and left the screening area without disclosing to anyone in authority what her true temperature was."

The hearing was told that a doctor took Ms Cafferkey's temperature and found it to be 38.2C, then 38.3C.

"Dr 1 says that Registrant A (someone else in the group) stated at this point that she would record the temperature as 37.2 degrees on Ms Cafferkey's screening form and then they would 'get out of here and sort it out'," Mrs Thompson told the hearing.

"Ms Cafferkey has stated she recalls the words 'let's get out of here' being used but now cannot remember who said it or who entered the temperature of 37.2 on her screening form.

"Ms Cafferkey accepts that she knew at the time that she was in the screening area with Dr 1 and Registrant A that her temperature had been measured at 38.2/38.3 degrees. It is agreed that a temperature above 37.5 degrees is an elevated temperature that requires further assessment and should be reported to a consultant."

The panel was told that, at some point after realising she had an elevated temperature, Ms Cafferkey took paracetamol.

Inquiry hears registrant recorded lower temperature for Pauline Cafferkey and said 'let's get out of here'

She left the screening area but later returned to it, where - with a temperature reading of around 37.5 degrees - she was cleared for onward travel by another doctor.

The nurse arrived in Glasgow late in the evening and awoke feeling "very unwell" the following day. She was diagnosed with Ebola the same day.

The hearing was told: "Ms Cafferkey had an extremely severe presentation, requiring non-invasive ventilation and multiple medical interventions with a very protracted illness course.

"Additionally, she is receiving psychological support following the trauma of requiring a prolonged admission inside an isolation tent, having a life-threatening illness and the effect of media intrusion during this very difficult process."

The Scot has since had two further admissions to hospital - one with a relapse of the Ebola virus and the other with chronic meningitis.

A report from a Glasgow-based doctor states: "Pauline's prognosis is uncertain. She is the only patient ever to have developed a reactivation of the Ebola virus infection 10 months after the initial illness."

The hearing began with a discussion about whether it should be held in private.

After representations from the media, both Ms Cafferkey's representatives and the NMC agreed that a statement of facts could be read out in public.

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