Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola cleared of professional misconduct

Pauline Cafferkey spent close to a month being treated at an isolation unit following her diagnosis

Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola cleared of professional misconduct

Pauline Cafferkey. Photo: Lisa Ferguson/Scotland on Sunday / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The British nurse who contracted Ebola after working in Sierra Leone, Pauline Cafferkey, has been cleared of professional misconduct.

A disciplinary hearing had heard she potentially put the public at risk as she returned to the UK in December 2014, by failing to declare her true temperature at a "busy, disorganised and even chaotic" screening area at Heathrow airport.

The hearing, held by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in Edinburgh, was told that a doctor had recorded Ms Cafferkey's temperature at 38.3C (100F) after her flight back from west Africa.

That was considerably more than the 37.5C threshold for further assessment. 

But it is alleged that an unnamed colleague said she would record the 40-year-old's temperature at 37.2C so they could "get out of here and sort it out".

Ms Cafferkey was cleared to take an onward flight to Glasgow but awoke feeling "very unwell" the following day.

She was then promptly diagnosed with Ebola and spent close to a month being treated at an isolation unit back in London. 

An independent panel found that three charges against Ms Cafferkey were not proven, meaning her fitness to practise was "not impaired". 

Ms Cafferkey had not set out to mislead Public Health England, the panel said.

Chairman Timothy Cole said that "compelling and clear medical evidence" about Ms Cafferkey's ability to reason at the time of her return had been central to the decision. 

Ms Cafferkey's lawyer, Joyce Cullen, rejected the allegation of misconduct, telling the three-person panel that Ms Cafferkey's ability to make decisions were likely substantially impaired by exhaustion after a 22-hour flight, as well as the early effects of the Ebola virus. 

Ms Cullen added that the nurse's previously unblemished record could make it all the more likely that she was acting out of character as a result of exhaustion and illness. 

Ms Cafferkey was diagnosed with one of the most severe viral loads of Ebola ever recorded.

After being discharged from the Royal Free Hospital in January 2015, she returned to work as a public health nurse in Blantyre, Scotland.  

She has since been admitted to hospital on a further two occasions - once with a relapse of the Ebola virus, and once for chronic meningitis. 

Speaking after the hearing had finished, Ms Cullen said Ms Cafferkey would never knowingly place anyone in danger, and was "relieved the process is at an end."