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Nurse suspended for concealing Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature at airport

Ebola nurse suspended for concealing colleague’s high temperature before virus was diagnosed.
Donna Wood

A nurse has been suspended for two months for concealing the fact her colleague Pauline Cafferkey had a temperature before she tested positive for Ebola virus.

The high temperature, noted on December 28 2014, should have triggered concern that Ms Cafferkey was infected with the virus on her return to the UK from Sierra Leone.

But Donna Wood suggested a lower temperature be recorded on Ms Cafferkeys form so they could pass through the screening process at Heathrow Airport passport control more quickly, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel found.

The panel, sitting in Stratford, east London, told Ms Wood during a hearing on Friday that she would be suspended, after finding her fitness to practise had been impaired on public interest grounds.

Najrul Khasru, chair of the panel, said it had considered

A nurse has been suspended for two months for concealing the fact her colleague Pauline Cafferkey had a temperature before she tested positive for Ebola virus.


Donna Wood’s career is otherwise unblemished  Photo: PA News

The high temperature, noted on December 28 2014, should have triggered concern that Ms Cafferkey was infected with the virus on her return to the UK from Sierra Leone.

But Donna Wood suggested a lower temperature be recorded on Ms Cafferkey’s form so they could pass through the screening process at Heathrow Airport passport control more quickly, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel found.

The panel, sitting in Stratford, east London, told Ms Wood during a hearing on Friday that she would be suspended, after finding her fitness to practise had been impaired on public interest grounds.

Najrul Khasru, chair of the panel, said it had considered several aggravating factors when reaching a decision on sanctions against Ms Wood.

Public health risk

‘You put Ms Cafferkey and anyone coming into contact with her at unwarranted risk of harm,’ he told Ms Wood.

‘The seriousness of your misconduct could have contributed to the risk of Ebola – a very serious and dangerous illness – spreading into this country.’

Mr Khasru said the panel was mindful of its duty to protect the public interest and its confidence in nursing and the NMC.

But he added: ‘While the public interest in this case is high, the panel considers that there was also a public interest in retaining and allowing a highly skilled and well regarded nurse to return to practice.’

Isolated incident

He described Ms Wood’s conduct as ‘an isolated incident in an otherwise long and unblemished career’.

Ms Wood, who faced three misconduct charges, could have been struck off the NMC register.

Ms Wood and Ms Cafferkey, who were volunteer nurses returning from Sierra Leone, were going through passport control at Heathrow when their group was taken aside for screening.

The NMC panel found that Ms Wood was aware Ms Cafferkey’s temperature was raised. But it said Ms Wood suggested a lower temperature of 37.2˚C be recorded on the screening form so the group could leave the ‘uncomfortable and chaotic’ area more quickly. A temperature above 37.5˚C required further assessment by doctors in the Public Health England (PHE) screening room.

The panel could not prove Ms Wood had written the incorrect temperature on Ms Cafferkey’s forms.

The group had taken their own temperatures to help doctors and staff running the screening process, the hearing was told.

Cleared for onward travel

Ms Cafferkey’s high temperature was later reported to another doctor, who recommended she be screened again, but she was given the all-clear to travel on to Glasgow.

The following day, public health nurse Ms Cafferkey was admitted to hospital, where she was diagnosed with Ebola.

At the time, Ms Wood was a senior sister at Haywood Hospital in Staffordshire and among the first group of NHS staff to travel to west Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic there. While in Sierra Leone, where the disease killed almost 4,000 people, she worked for Save The Children.

Ms Cafferkey, who had been working at Blantyre Health Centre outside Glasgow before travelling to West Africa, was cleared at a hearing in September of allowing the 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 that 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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