Ebola nurse denies hiding Pauline Cafferkey temperature

Donna Wood, a nurse who helped fight Ebola, faces being struck off over accusations that she recorded an inaccurate temperature on an airport screening form. Picture: Simon Davis/DFID/PA Wire
Donna Wood, a nurse who helped fight Ebola, faces being struck off over accusations that she recorded an inaccurate temperature on an airport screening form. Picture: Simon Davis/DFID/PA Wire
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A nurse who helped fight Ebola in Sierra Leona said the idea that she would hide someone’s temperature was “preposterous” as she would not put anyone in danger of the virus.

Donna Wood returned to the UK along with Pauline Cafferkey, who survived the deadly outbreak 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 (99F) after a doctor, Hannah Ryan, had taken Ms Cafferkey’s temperature twice, with readings of 38.2C and 38.3C (101F).

A temperature above 37.5C (100F) required further assessment by doctors at the Public Health England (PHE) screening room, the NMC’s Aja Hall said.

The team returned to Heathrow airport on December 28 2014, where they were able to pass through passport control before being pulled aside for screening.

Wood described this process as “chaotic”, with nobody knowing what was going on.

Ben Rich, representing the nurse, asked her whether she agree with the suggestion that she had recorded the incorrect temperature because the group had just wanted to get out of the airport.

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.”

She added that she would have told somebody straight away.

Asked why, she replied: “Because I had just spent six weeks protecting myself from contracting Ebola, ensuring my colleagues who were around me were protecting themselves against Ebola.

“It would be preposterous of me to even contemplate to allow someone else to put themselves in danger, or myself, or my family or my country.”

The panel heard that in an attempt to help doctors and staff conducting screening at Heathrow airport, the medics decided they would take their own temperatures.

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 (screening) forms?”

She replied: “I don’t recall whether I did or didn’t write any forms. I do not remember that I did, but I do not remember that I did not.”

It was also suggested that the group had talked about Ms Cafferkey taking paracetamol.

Wood told the panel this had been discussed in the toilet after getting off the plane, but she advised against this as it would “mask” a fever.

Ms Cafferkey had told her that she felt hot, but said this was probably because she had fallen asleep with a hoodie.

Asked to describe the screening process, Wood explained she felt very “uncomfortable” as 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 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 Cafferkey’s temperature was checked again three times by a PHE consultant and was found to be a maximum of 37.6C (100F), meaning she was given the all-clear to travel on to Glasgow.

The following day, she became “extremely ill” and was admitted to hospital, where she was diagnosed with Ebola.

Wood denies all of the allegations.

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 Department for International Development’s promotional campaign.

Asked if she had become a “poster girl” for the search for volunteers, Mrs Wood said: “Some would say... Unfortunately, yes.

“I am normally at the back trying to keep quiet. But I felt it was really important for other volunteers to come forward, so I put my nervousness or dislike at being in the public to the back of my mind.

“I thought if this is what it takes to make people stand up and listen that we need volunteers to stop the spread of Ebola, I am prepared to do that.”

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 proven by admission but said 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.