'Amazing' Doctor Faces Tribunal Over Ebola Nurse Pauline Cafferkey Screening

21 March 2017, 16:38

Ebola virus

A doctor who misled other medics before Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey was struck down with the Ebola virus is ''amazing'', a colleague told a tribunal today.

Dr Hannah Ryan was one of the first UK medics to travel to Sierra Leone with Ms Cafferkey and other volunteers to undertake dangerous work helping treat victims of the deadly outbreak that killed thousands in West Africa in 2014.

Another volunteer, Dr Sharon Irvine, told the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service: ''Hannah is amazing. She's one of the best doctors I have worked with ever.''

But the tribunal has heard when they returned to the UK Dr Ryan took Ms Cafferkey's temperature while being screened for Ebola and ''acquiesced'' in not reporting a raised temperature indicative of infection.

Ms Cafferkey was allowed to leave Heathrow Airport but fell seriously ill the next day.

Dr Ryan admits misleading medics from Public Health England (PHE) doing the screening but denies misconduct at the hearing in Manchester.

All the medics had worked in ''horrendous'' conditions, the tribunal heard, having to wear face masks and heavy, head-to-toe protective clothing in searing heat, working in pairs in case of fainting, while treating women, children and men dying from the virus.

When they got back to the UK on December 28 2014 after two months away they were ''keen'' to get back home to loved ones.

But the PHE screening process at Heathrow Airport to ensure no one brought the virus back to the UK was ''shambolic'' with queues building up in the ''crowded, noisy and chaotic'' quarantined area, the hearing was told.

Dr Ryan took Ms Cafferkey's temperature as 38.2 centigrade - above the 37.5 C threshold as a warning sign for Ebola infection.

Dr Ryan was in a state of ''disbelief, fear and panic'' at the raised reading and instead of alerting the PHE medics at Heathrow a lower temperature of 37.2C was given.

Dr Ryan denies writing the 37.2C temperature for Ms Cafferkey on the form handed to PHE screening staff at Heathrow.

Instead she admits she ''acquiesced'' in the wrong temperature being given.

Her counsel, Richard Booth QC, suggested it was another medic, nurse Donna Wood, who had put the false temperature on the form to hand in.

Mr Booth asked Mrs Wood: ''Did you say something along the lines of, 'I'm going to write it down as 37.2 and then we will get out of here'?''

Mrs Wood replied: ''You are absolutely mistaken, I did not say that.''

Mr Booth said she was an experienced nurse and Dr Ryan an inexperienced doctor.

He continued: ''At that moment as a very experienced nurse you, in fact, took charge of the situation? You were desperate to get out of the screening area.''

She replied: ''Absolutely not.''

Last year, Mrs Wood was suspended for two months after a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel found she had suggested putting the lower temperature on the form.

The NMC said her fitness to practice had been impaired on public interest grounds and her misconduct could have contributed to the risk of Ebola spreading into the UK.

Mrs Wood told Dr Ryan's tribunal today: ''Whilst I accept what the NMC's findings were, I don't necessarily agree.''

Ms Cafferkey was cleared of allowing the incorrect temperature to be recorded, as her judgment at the airport had been so impaired by the developing illness that she could not be found guilty of misconduct, the NMC ruled.

Dr Ryan's tribunal continues.

Ms Cafferkey was due to give evidence as a witness today but the tribunal accepted a written statement from her instead, which was not read out at the hearing and was not released to the press.