I am disappointed and disillusioned by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council). What can I do about it?
Last week their tribunal found Donna Wood guilty of “dishonesty” (1) and she has been suspended from practising as a nurse for two months (2). Yet this whole process has left a nasty taste in my mouth because from all the reports I have read of her tribunal I cannot see what evidence they based their decision on.
Dr Martin Dheal, a consultant psychiatrist who also volunteered to look after Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, said: "I can't help but think that part of what's happened subsequently is just scapegoating, and trying to deflect blame on to individuals" (2). I agree with him. This and the persecution of Pauline Cafferkey (3) has left me with the deep feeling that NMC is not professionally regulating nursing, but is instead bowing to pressure from NHS institutions.
Donna Wood was accused of falsifying the record of Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature on a screening form at Heathrow Airport, yet the tribunal couldn’t even determine who wrote actually the temperature on the form (1).
Pauline Cafferkey, Donna Wood and Dr Hannah Ryan (A newly qualified doctor who also volunteered to look after Ebola patients) all took each other’s temperatures at the screening centre, when they arrived back into Heathrow from Sierra Leone, because there were no Public Health England clinicians available to do so (1, 2 & 4).
From the reports of her tribunal I have read, Donna Wood seems to have been convicted only on the evidence of Hannah Ryan; yet Hannah Ryan is also facing a GMC disciplinary panel next year for her actions at Heathrow Airport (4), she physically took Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature. Why did the tribunal place so much emphasis on her testimony? Her testimony should have been questionable at most. Hannah Ryan was testifying to the NMC tribunal, ahead of her own GMC tribunal, the tribunal should have questioned how much of her testimony was placing herself in a good light. Her evidence was that it was Donna Wood who said to record a falsely low temperature on Pauline Cafferkey. In the end it seemed to be Hannah Ryan’s word against Donna Wood’s.
There is a lot of discussion and evidence of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony on its own (5, 6, 7 & 8). In British law we have The Turnbull Guidelines (9) whereas if a defendant has been identified solely on eyewitness testimony then a judge has to give instruction to a jury on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. This NMC tribunal has just seemed to have accepted Hannah Ryan’s testimony without question.
Donna Wood’s treatment at the hands of the NMC has left me feeling disgusted and also very unsafe. The evidence against her was thin and she was put into a ridiculous position by Public Health England’s chaotic organisation of the screening centre at Heathrow (This blog goes into much more detail of that); yet the NMC tribunal has found her guilty. The NMC does not seem to have questioned the nature of the complaint against her (Public Heath England brought complaints against Pauline Cafferkey, Donna Wood and Hannah Ryan after Pauline Cafferkey developed Ebola, shifting the blame?) nor have they seemed to question the nature of evidence against Donna Wood.
If a patient was to make a malicious and false complaint against me, what chance would I have to clearing my name if this is how the NMC works?