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The doctor who led the hospital team (above) that treated Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey today credited the “amazing” NHS for saving her life.

Dr Michael Jacobs said he felt “absolutely thrilled” and “incredibly proud” to see Ms Cafferkey being discharged from the Royal Free on Saturday after three-and-a-half weeks.

Still “exhausted”, he spoke as 33 of the staff who helped keep the Scottish nurse alive were reunited by the Evening Standard to demonstrate the extent of the care required to treat such a critically ill patient.

He praised their teamwork as an “amazing, amazing example of the NHS”.

Dr Jacobs, 51, a consultant in infectious diseases, admitted there was a stage when he feared Ms Cafferkey 39, who contracted the deadly virus while working as a NHS volunteer in Sierra Leone, might not survive.

She displayed symptoms of Ebola on her return from Africa to Glasgow. She was admitted to the specialist unit at the Royal Free, in Hampstead, on December 30 but four days later her condition became critical.

“We don’t use the term ‘critically ill’ loosely,” he told the Standard. “It’s not something we’re casual about. As long as we were providing the best possible care, we were always hopeful that we could pull Pauline through.

“But there was certainly a period when we were very, very worried by what we were seeing, and very unsure about the outcome.”

Ebola patients typically display symptoms of high fever, become extremely weak and suffer profuse diarrhoea and vomiting.

“Pauline had been extremely unwell,” he said. “It wasn’t until she started being able to do more normal things, such as listening to music on the iPad that had been given to her by the Royal Free charity, that she began to realise that she was through the worst of this.”

He said Ms Cafferkey’s case was “far more complicated” than the Royal Free’s treatment last summer of nurse William Pooley, who also contracted Ebola from volunteering in West Africa.

Like Mr Pooley, Ms Cafferkey may be able to donate her blood plasma to help other victims, though no decision has been taken. Her treatment has been shared with clinicians around the world “to improve care for the next patient”, Dr Jacobs said.

He told how staff at the Royal Free worked like a “hospital within a hospital” to keep her alive.

“If you imagine all the functions that a hospital has to have, not only the doctors and nurses and physiotherapists and pharmacists but estates management and food and facilities and laundry – they all have to be involved, and they all have to be specially trained to be safe to work in that environment,” he said.

“Pride is my overwhelming emotion. I was thinking as we were taking the photograph: how nice it would be to say to all those guys, we’ll have a night out, come along if you want to, because they worked incredibly hard. Without them, it would be nothing.”

But he refuses to allow the Royal Free’s efforts to overshadow from those on the frontline in West Africa who are “putting themselves in the line of fire” in a bid to save others.

“We are a very, very small player in what has been an incredible effort by our colleagues,” he said. “I absolutely salute their courage and dedication in going out there. Right at the end of the spectrum is the Royal Free hospital.

“It’s important for everyone to realise that the Royal Free has always been here to do this – this isn’t new for the Ebola epidemic. We’ve been here since 1976. This is actually, strangely, business as usual for us.”

29-jan-gc-ebola team-05.jpg

Name     Department     Job title
26    Dr Rebecca Lester    Infectious diseases    Specialist registrar
14    Dr Damien Mack    Microbiology    Consultant
1    Dr Ruaridh Buchanan    Infectious diseases    Specialist registrar
2    Dr Simon Warren    Infectious diseases    Consultant
15    Oliver Carpenter    Infectious diseases    Nurse clinical practice educator
27    Breda Athanasopoulos    Infectious diseases    Senior matron lead high level isolation unit
28    Dr Tabitha Mahungu    Infectious diseases    Specialist registrar
32    Susan Coath    Infectious diseases    Ward sister
33    Zenaida Pandio    Domestic services    Housekeeper
30    Claire Harawa    Domestic services    Domestic team leader
31    Renato Pandio    Domestic services    Deep cleaner
22    Sheila Connolly    Patient environment    Head of patient environment
21    Peter Williams    Facilities    Security manager
25    Marchito Tumibay    Domestic services    Support worker
20    Michael Campo    Facilities    Porter
24    Lauren Geddes    Physiotherapy    Clinical lead cardiorespiratory care
19    Victoria Maddox    Laboratory service    Senior health care scientist
18    Nikki Williams     Infectious diseases    Ward sister
29    Dr Sanjay Bhagani    Infectious diseases    Consultant
17    Sarah Stanley    Patient at risk team    Nurse consultant
23    Dr Susan Hopkins    Infectious diseases and microbiology    Consultant
16    Torrain Exall    Physiotherapy    Clinical lead critical care
3    Dr Stephen Mepham    Infectious diseases and microbiology    Consultant
4    Dr Michael Jacobs    Infectious diseases    Consultant
5    Simon Rattenbury    Laboratory service    Head of laboratory service
6    Bryan O’Farrell    Pharmacy    Senior Pharmacist
7    Adrien Cooper    Estates    Director of estates
8    Robert Elliot-Cooke    Pharmacy    Senior pharmacist
9    Allan Harris    Estates    Engineering supervisor
10    Sumal Kuranaratne    Facilities    Support services manager
11    Dave Reavy    Facilities    Head of security and support services
12    Garba Ibrahim    Domestic services    Domestic team leader
13    Stephen King    Royal Free Charity    Head of finance

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