Ebola nurse to be accused of dishonest conduct at Heathrow

Pauline Cafferkey, the Scottish nurse who contracted the deadly Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, intentionally concealed the fact that she had a fever during a medical screening on her way back to Scotland, a disciplinary case will hear.

Scots Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Miss Cafferkey, who became infected with the potentially fatal virus in December 2014 at a Save the Children treatment facility in west Africa, has been under investigation by the Nursing and Midwivery Council (NMC). Yesterday the council outlined its case against her which will be heard in Edinburgh next month.

Details of the hearing include the claim that Miss Cafferkey, 40, from Crossgates in Fife intentionally tried to conceal that her temperature was higher than 38C during a screening in Heathrow ­Airport.

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She is also accused of failing to inform medical staff that she had taken paracetamol – known to treat pain and lower fevers.

At the time Public Health England staff, which was in charge of screening for the virus at the airport, allowed Miss Cafferkey on to a connecting flight back to 
Scotland. The following day Miss Cafferkey fell ill and was flown down to an isolation unit in London.

The passengers who were on board her flight to Scotland had to be contacted by Health Protection Scotland.

If the allegations against her are proved Miss Cafferkey could be struck off as a nurse.

The NMC charges state: “That you, a registered nurse, on 29 December 2014 whilst in the Public Health England (PHE) screening area at Terminal 4, gave incorrect responses to questions 4.1 and/or 4.2 of the screening form and allowed an incorrect temperature to be recorded on your PHE screening form.

“On 29 December 2014 left the PHE screening area without reporting your true temperature to PHE staff.

“On 29 December 2014 when having your temperature taken by Dr 1, did not tell her that you had recently taken paracetamol.”

The last charge reads: “Your conduct as set out in charges 1 and/or 2 above was dishonest in that: you knew your temperature was above 38C.

“You intended to conceal from PHE staff that you had a temperature higher than 38C. And in light of the above, your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct.”

Miss Cafferkey, a nurse for 16 years, volunteered to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa after responding to an NHS appeal.

In December 2014 she returned home to Scotland where she complained that she felt unwell and had a high temperature.

Within days she was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in London where she spent almost a month in isolation and was described as being in “critical” condition.

She recovered and was discharged at the end of January 2015 but in October last year she fell ill again and was readmitted to the Royal Free Hospital where she was treated for meningitis caused by the Ebola.

She returned home in November after making a full recovery but in February this year she became ill for a third time due to a complication from her previous Ebola virus.

The following week she was discharged from the Royal Free Hospital when a spokesman confirmed Miss Cafferkey was no longer infectious.

Last month, Miss Cafferkey told reporters: “The report on how they are dealing with my case is still ongoing.

“I don’t know why it has not been finished. It’s very stressful. It would be nice to have closure.”

On the specific allegations, Miss Cafferkey said in the same interview: “My lawyer just says I can’t speak about it. I am unable to discuss the investigation whilst it is ongoing and I am looking forward to its conclusion.”

An NMC spokesman said: “We can confirm that the NMC case regarding allegations of misconduct against Pauline Cafferkey is ongoing. We are working closely with Miss Cafferkey and her representatives to ensure that we reach a resolution as quickly as possible that meets the public interest. As the case is ongoing, we are not able to comment further.”