On the 14th September (1), Pauline Cafferkey was cleared of all misconduct charges brought against her but why did the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2) even allow this to get a tribunal? They were so obviously unfounded charges.
Ms Cafferkey was accused of not reporting her temperature, when she returned to Healthrow after volunteering to nurse Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, and allowing an incorrect temperature being recorded on her. She was accused of being “dishonest”. She was not on duty, she was not carrying out any clinical work, she’d had her temperature taken for her. She was tired and ill and walked into the chaos that was screening process at Healthrow airport, which Public Health England failed to organise.
After a one day hearing, were the NMC lawyer ended up arguing against her own case (1), the following day the tribunal dismissed all charges against Ms Cafferkey. But why did the NMC allow this complaint to go to a tribunal? For a case to fall apart so quickly there was not such substance to the charges, yet the NMC does not seem to have investigated them. If they had properly investigated this complaint that could have saved Ms Cafferkey the stress of facing a tribunal, a woman who has survived Ebola, and saved all the expense of a tribunal.
The original complaint against her was made by Public Health England (1), the very organisation that failed to organise effective screening of the returning healthcare workers when Ms Cafferkey landed into Healthrow airport.
Again, the NMC is left looking like the villain of this story. They are seen attacking a nurse who selflessly volunteered to care for Ebola patients, herself contracting Ebola. No one caught Ebola from Ms Cafferkey, she caused no cross infection. At the time this “incident” happened she wasn’t even on duty as a nurse. Why did the NMC let this complaint go to a tribunal?
How can nurses have confidence in the NMC, the governing body of our profession, after their treatment of Pauline Cafferkey?
From their own figures (3), in a document they sent out to all nurses in 2015, two-thirds of NMC tribunals dismissed the charges brought against the nurses. 87% of nurses’ yearly registration fees goes to funding the NMC’s Fitness to Practice hearings (NMC tribunals) (4), but only 2% is spent on education of nurses (3). All nurses have to pay their yearly NMC fees to be able to stay working as nurses because the NMC also manages the registry of all practicing nurses in the UK.
Why is the NMC spending so much of our money on Fitness to Practice hearings? Have they no process to weed out the malicious and untrue complaints? Their website certainly gives no reassurance to nurses, and we are the people who fund them (2).
The NMC’s persecution of Pauline Cafferkey gives me no confidence. What if a patient makes a false or malicious complaint about me? How can I trust the NMC to treat me fairly when they treated Pauline Cafferkey like this? What am I paying nursing resignation fee for when the NMC mismanages it the way they did with Pauline Cafferkey?
(This was originally written as an opinion piece for Nursing Standard)
3 – NMC Update, Issue 3, 2015