Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey cleared of misconduct charges

  • ITV News report by correspondent Peter Smith

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey has been cleared of misconduct over allegations she did not disclose her true temperature when returning to the UK with the virus.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel cleared the 40-year-old of three charges, ruling there was "no evidence" she had tried to mislead health authorities.

The Scottish medical worker, who was infected with Ebola while working in Sierra Leone in December 2014, was accused of allowing an incorrect temperature to be recorded at Heathrow Airport.

But on Wednesday an NMC panel in Edinburgh ruled in her favour after hearing her mental state had been impaired by illness.

Ms Cafferkey had originally faced four charges, but on Tuesday the NMC urged for one charge of "dishonesty" to be withdrawn, and the panel agreed on the basis of medical evidence.

The three remaining charges were that she:

  • Allowed an incorrect temperature to be recorded on the PHE screening form

  • Left the screening area without reporting her true temperature

  • Did not disclose that she'd recently taken paracetamol (which would lower her temperature)

In agreed evidence, it was said screening staff from Public Health England (PHE) at the airport "were not properly prepared to receive so many travellers from at-risk countries", resulting in the area being described as "busy, disorganised and even chaotic".

Ms Cafferkey's temperature was found by a doctor to be 38.3C (100F), but recorded by another individual as 37.2C so the group could "get out of here and sort it out".

Ms Cafferkey told the panel she could not remember who said it or who entered the lower temperature on her form.

After being cleared for onward travel, she arrived in Glasgow late in the evening and awoke feeling "very unwell" the following day, December 29.

Pauline Cafferkey volunteered to help in 2014. Credit: Handout

Ms Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola - with one of the highest viral loads ever recorded - and spent almost a month being treated in an isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital.

In evidence, medics said the early symptoms would have impaired her judgement at Heathrow.

Panel chair Timothy Cole also pointed to Ms Cafferkey's "medically-impaired state" at the airport, adding that her health was "going rapidly downhill at that time".

Pauline says she used to cry inside the lonely tent. Credit: ITV News

Cafferkey, who will remain on the NMC register, intends to return to Glasgow and continue in the nursing profession.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has tweeted in support of Cafferkey, sending her "very best wishes" and saying her "bravery is an inspiration".

Public Health England's director of health protection and medical director, Professor Paul Cosford, said: "The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was unprecedented and we are hugely grateful to all the volunteers who contributed at great personal risk, including our own staff.

"We support the judgment of the panel and wish Pauline Cafferkey well with her ongoing recovery and for her future."

Speaking after the hearing, her solicitor Joyce Cullen said the nurse was motivated "by a genuine desire" to help others - willing to put her own health at risk.

She described the disciplinary process as "very upsetting" for Ms Cafferkey, who would "never knowingly" put anyone in danger.

"It is perhaps ironic given the criticisms made of Public Health England's processes it was their complaint which led to the NMC investigation and these proceedings being initiated against Pauline", she said.

"No doubt lessons have been learned".