NHS 24 staff ordered to deal with suspected Ebola cases immediately


NHS 24 staff have been ordered to deal immediately with callers suspected of having Ebola.

An urgent memo to staff orders them not to put callers at risk of having contracted the deadly disease in the ‘call back queue’.

The move follows the case of Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey who faced delays in being diagnosed with Ebola after returning to the UK.

NHS 24 has refused to say if it was contacted by the Lanarkshire Health worker fighting for her life after contracting the disease.

But the memo sent out since that case demands staff to treat people at risk of suffering from Ebola as “serious and urgent”.

In capital letters staff were ordered not to list such patients among those who have to wait for a nurse to call them back.

They were also requested to sign the form to confirm the orders had been read and understood.

Pauline Cafferkey was working as a volunteer with Save the Children and was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone.

Concerns have since been raised about the delay in diagnosing the nurse who was allowed to fly from London to Scotland despite having told officials she thought a fever might be developing.

All 71 people passengers aboard the British Airways flight that Ms Cafferkey took had to be tracked down while special NHS 24 helpline was also set-up.

The urgent memo to NHS 24 staff has led to speculation the 39-year-old may have faced further delays in getting help.

Ms Cafferkey was eventually placed in an isolation unit at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital before being flown to a in London where she remains in a serious condition.

NHS 24 officials have declined requests to discuss the case citing patient confidentiality.

But Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Jenny Marra described the memo as “concerning”.

Ms Marra said: “I have raised the issue of how prepared the NHS in Scotland was with the Health Secretary and she assured me that the government was doing everything it could and that our NHS was prepared for Ebola in Scotland.”

She continued: “It is concerning to hear that this memo had been sent out after this case and I would look for assurance from NHS 24 and all health agencies that their staff are fully briefed and fully prepared and know what to do in the event that an Ebola case self presents.”

Professor George Crooks, medical director of NHS 24, said: “NHS 24 routinely issues updated guidelines or reminders to staff in relation to service and clinical development and this has been the case case in relation to Ebola.

“On Tuesday January 6 the special helpline we had been operating in relation to Ebola closed and all such calls are now coming through the 111 number.

“Updated guidance has been issued in line with normal business.”

On Thursday Pauline Cafferkey’s family issued a statement thanking the public for their support.

“We have been very touched by the kind words,” the statement said. “Pauline continues to be in a critical condition at the Royal Free hospital.

“We want to thank all the staff caring for her for their kindness, support and compassion.

“Pauline’s condition could remain the same for some time and we would again ask for her and our privacy to be respected.”