Nurse denies dishonestly recording Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature
A nurse who volunteered to fight Ebola in West Africa has denied dishonestly recording an inaccurate temperature for colleague Pauline Cafferkey, who had become infected with the virus.
Donna Wood told a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel it was preposterous to say she had hidden the public health nurse’s high temperature – because she would not put anyone in danger of the virus.
Ms Wood returned to the UK from Sierra Leone with Ms Cafferkey on 28 December 2014. The pair’s group became caught up in the ‘chaotic’ screening process at Heathrow Airport, the hearing was told.
Ms Wood denies 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 37.2˚C after a doctor, Hannah Ryan, twice took Ms Cafferkey’s temperature, with readings of 38.2˚C and 38.3˚C. A temperature above 37.5˚C would have required further assessment by doctors at the Public Health England (PHE) screening room, counsel to the NMC Aja Hall said.
The team was able to pass through passport control before being pulled aside for screening. Ms Wood described this process as chaotic.
Ben Rich, representing Ms Wood, asked her whether she agreed with the suggestion she had recorded the incorrect temperature because the group wanted to get out of the airport.
Ms Wood said: ‘I absolutely dispute that allegation because if I had been aware of anybody having a temperature, it would be a danger, it would be like a red alert in my mind – that could be something serious.’
The panel heard that in an attempt to help doctors and staff conducting screening at Heathrow, the group decided they would take their own temperatures.
Ms Wood said she recalled seeing Dr Ryan with the thermometer, and that she had held it up to her at least once.
Mr Rich asked: ‘Did you write on the forms?’
She replied: ‘I don’t recall whether I did or didn’t write any forms.’
It was suggested the group had talked about Ms Cafferkey taking paracetamol. Ms Wood told the panel this had been discussed in the toilet after getting off the aeroplane, but she advised against this because it would mask any fever.
Ms Cafferkey had told her she felt hot, but said this was probably because she had fallen asleep wearing a hoody, Ms Wood told the hearing.
Asked to describe the screening process, Ms Wood explained she felt very uncomfortable because she had been made to wait with hundreds of people in passport control before being taken to a separate crowded area to be checked.
After the group left the screening room and entered the arrivals hall, Dr Ryan reported Ms Cafferkey’s high temperature to another doctor, who recommended the nurse be screened again.
Ms Cafferkey’s temperature was checked again three times by a PHE consultant and was found to be at a maximum of 37.6˚C. She was given the all-clear to travel home to Glasgow.
The following day, Ms Cafferkey became very unwell and was admitted to hospital, where she was diagnosed with Ebola virus.
At the time Ms Wood was a senior sister at Haywood Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent and one of the first group of NHS clinicians to travel to West Africa during the region’s Ebola epidemic.
Ms Cafferkey was cleared by the NMC in September of allowing an incorrect temperature to be recorded. An NMC panel found three charges against her proven by admission but said her fitness to practise was not affected.
It ruled her judgement at the airport had been so impaired by the developing illness that she could not be found guilty of misconduct.
The hearing continues.