Health

Medic suspended for 'dishonesty' over Ebola temperature

Dr Hannah Ryan Image copyright Megan Bramall

A doctor who misled other medics about Pauline Cafferkey - a nurse who developed the Ebola virus - has been suspended from practising for a month.

Dr Hannah Ryan took Ms Cafferkey's temperature at Heathrow Airport on returning from West Africa where they had volunteered to help.

But despite a high temperature - a warning sign of the virus - Dr Ryan agreed to a lower value being recorded.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal said she was guilty of serious misconduct.

Dr Ryan said she was in a state of "disbelief, fear and panic" at the time.

Ms Cafferkey was then allowed to travel home to Scotland, carrying the virus and putting others at "unwarranted risk" the tribunal heard.

'Message to profession'

The Scottish nurse fell ill the next day and survived a long period of illness with Ebola and its complications.

Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey had been working in Sierra Leone with other volunteers to help treat Ebola victims in 2014.

The outbreak of the highly contagious virus led to thousands of deaths in the region.

Returning on 28 December, Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey had landed at Heathrow, "keen" to be home for the Christmas holiday period, the tribunal heard.

They queued to get clearance from Public Health England medics to be allowed to leave.

Trying to help PHE staff with the process, Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey agreed to take and record their own temperatures.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pauline Cafferkey recovered from Ebola but has since had various health complications

Dr Ryan had then taken Ms Cafferkey's temperature and got a reading of 38.2C - higher than normal.

But a lower temperature, 37.2C, was actually recorded and Ms Cafferkey was then allowed to catch her connecting flight to Glasgow to go home.

And later when a consultant rang to investigate what had happened at the airport, Dr Ryan gave a "dishonest" response about her involvement, the tribunal was told.

The tribunal ruled that while there were "extenuating circumstances" for her actions at Heathrow, her behaviour five days later when she took the call, was "deeply deplorable".

Dr Ryan told the hearing: "Pauline Cafferkey was my friend and someone I cared about and was really worried she might die."

Dr Bernard Herdan, chairman of the tribunal, said: "Since the tribunal is satisfied the risk of repetition of your misconduct is low, and there is no risk to patient safety, it has concluded that a one-month suspension will be sufficient to mark the seriousness of your misconduct and to send a message to the profession that dishonesty by a doctor cannot be tolerated under any circumstances."

In September 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Council cleared Ms Cafferkey of misconduct over claims she had hidden her infection, after a panel ruled that her judgement had been impaired by her illness.

In November, another colleague, senior nurse Donna Wood, was suspended by the NMC for two months. The panel found Ms Wood suggested a lower temperature be recorded on Ms Cafferkey's screening form so they could pass through checks at passport control more quickly.

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