Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Just When I Thought the NMC Had Hit Rock Bottom…

They go and prove me wrong.

I was disgusted at the NMC’s treatment of Pauline Cafferkey, and expressed it in this blog. She was the nurse who contracted Ebola, while volunteering to look after Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, but her symptoms didn’t appear until she was on her way home. The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) charged her with misconduct for having a temperature and for someone else recording it wrong. She wasn’t on duty, she didn’t take her own temperature and no one caught Ebola from her. She was cleared of all charges when the NMC tribunal collapsed and very quickly (1).

With the tribunal collapsing so fast I thought that it was the end of it all, but no. Not being able to prosecute Pauline Cafferkey, they have turned their attention to the woman who wrote down Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature.

Donna Wood is now facing charges of misconduct, bought against her by the NMC, the regulator of her own profession (2). She was one of the first British nurses to volunteer to look after Ebola patients in West Africa. She was on the same flight back to the UK as Pauline Cafferkey and she walked into the same chaos at Heathrow Airport as Pauline Cafferkey.

Public Health England (3) organised the screening of passengers at risk of being infected with Ebola at Heathrow Airport. But of this screening process was shown to be chaotic and extremely poorly organised (4). Half of the people screening passengers were administration workers from the Cabinet Office, with no clinician experience. The manager of the screening centre was a former Metropolitan police officer, not a doctor or a nurse, he didn’t have the clinical experience to run a screening centre and he didn’t even have the correct telephone number for the infectious diseases consultant at Northwick Park hospital, the north-west London hospital were any suspected Ebola patients were to be taken. Pauline Cafferkey were classified as category 2, which related to journalists and others who only visited Ebola treatment centres, and not category 3, which was for healthcare workers who had been looking after Ebola patients.

Donna Wood walked into all this chaos. She was tired after nursing Ebola patients for several months, wearing full protective clothing in a hot climate, she was tired from a long flight home, she was in a noisy and chaotic environment, is it any wonder she made a mistake writing down a colleague’s temperature. But she should never have been put into this position, she should never have been asked to check a colleague’s temperature. There should have been enough experienced healthcare professionals to screen passengers, healthcare professionals who knew what to do with a person who had a temperature.

Donna Wood wasn’t on duty when this occurred, she wasn’t caring for patients, she was passenger flying into Heathrow Airport. She was tired and in chaotic and unbelievably poorly managed environment. She made a momentary mistake, she misheard what another person said (She was not the person who actually took Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature) in a noisy environment. No one caught Ebola from Pauline Cafferkey, there was no cross infection, so why is Donna Wood being persecuted?

The NMC has a screening process where they check the validity of all complaints (5), they say they weed out complaints were there is no case to answer. Why weren’t Pauline Cafferkey’s and Donna Wood’s cases weeded out at this point? Both these complaints were made by Public Health England, in a blatant case of passing the blame and drawing attention away from them, yet the NMC seems to have just rolled over and done what Public Health England wanted.

Donna Wood’s tribunal has already begun (2), but I really hope it collapses the way Pauline Cafferkey’s did (1). Donna Wood does not deserve this treatment, even if she did write down the wrong temperature it was during an extremely chaotic situation. Would someone who had witnessed the horrors of Ebola first hand deliberately have covered up a potential case of it?

Public Health England has not been held responsible for the shambolic way they conducted the Ebola screening at Heathrow. They are the ones responsible for this mess and yet they are the ones still trying to pass the blame onto other people.

Public Health England and the NMC are both ultimately responsible to Jeremy Hunt, as Health Minister, and what has he said about this mess and passing of the blame? Nothing. I cannot find any statements of his about all of this, but then I am not surprised. He hasn’t proved himself a competent Minister of Health so far.

Pauline Cafferkey’s tribunal fell apart and hopefully Donna Wood’s will too. This has been a complete waste of time and money, none of this has been in the public interest and it borders on a witch hunt. Again the NMC has shown themselves as less than competent at regulating the nursing profession. How can I trust them to treat me with any fairness and honesty now?

Drew Payne

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