Baby Peter and beyond – Great Ormond Street in the dock

Kim Holt has finally broken cover over the health team’s part in the Baby Peter tragedy with an interview in the Sunday Telegraph with Andrew Gilligan.

Who is Kim? She is (or rather was) a senior paediatric consultant in Haringey’s child protection health team.

Kim first came to me (over a year ago), terrified to talk to me, as she had been gagged – forbidden to talk to anyone. However, because I was her MP, she and I believed that must give her cover as it couldn’t be the case that a citizen loses their right to talk to their MP.

Kim was desperately worried that children in Haringey were at risk because none of the senior managers at Great Ormond Street were taking proper notice of the concerns she and three other senior consultant paediatricians had raised about the dreadful way things were being handled by management in charge of the child protection health team. The four consultants were so worried that they took the unusual step of jointly signing a letter enumerating their concerns and stating that they believed management were ignoring them. This was exposed in the Evening Standard recently also by Gilligan – with a scanned version of the letter for all to see.

In fact, when Kim tried to raise these issues and became vocal about them – guess what – the establishment turned on her. She was bullied by management – and worse – the situation was ignored. She eventually found herself on ‘special leave’ where she has been for two years – kept away from work by management at taxpayers’ expense to try and stop her exposing what had been going on.

Worse than that – additional to keeping her from working (and she a senior consultant paediatrician with an impeccable track record of 25 years of dedicated service) they tried to buy her silence. They offered her £120,000 if she would sign a statement saying all her concerns had been addressed.

But Kim wouldn’t be bought off. Kim’s real and genuine concern is and always has been the well-being of the most vulnerable of children. That is why over the year or so since she first came to me – I have completely and totally supported Kim and believed that she is the victim of bad management, bullying and a desire by those in charge to not rock the eminent boat of Great Ormond Street.

So – when Kim first came to see me to tell me about the bullying – I went to see Richard Sumray, Chair of Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT) to talk to him privately about this situation. The child protection task had been handed over from Haringey PCT to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The existing senior manager in charge had been transferred across from Haringey PCT to GOSH. It was now a matter for GOSH. That is what he said – but he also said he would look into it.

Then the Baby Peter trial concluded and all hell let loose. Haringey Council was rightly first in line, as the lead agency and the most culpable, and got all the attention. But knowing a little at that time about the health team and wondering why there was a locum in place – the locum who failed to recognise Peter’s broken back and ribs – I started asking questions.

I raised it in Parliament and if you look back in Hansard you will see me raise the issue of why out of four senior paediatric consultants, two had resigned, one was on sick leave and one on special leave. (You will also read that our health spokesperson Norman Lamb raised it too). I was, at that point, still bound to keep Kim’s confidence but was desperately trying to get the health team management looked at.

Kim was still not working and in my view was being kept from working because of her whistle-blowing. At this point, I ‘phoned Ed Balls office and told them of the dreadful treatment of Kim Holt and said if they didn’t do something at some point this would all blow up and with the reputation of the world’s foremost children’s hospital at stake – they needed to act.

I was very pleased that I was called shortly after this by the Chief Nurse from London Strategic Health Authority who I met with and who undertook to carry out a private investigation of the issues around Kim’s bullying and exclusion.

That investigation reports this coming week. Kim gave an interview to the Sunday Telegraph – finally – because she believes the report leaves out the important issues. She is gagged from talking about what is in the report. I have not seen it – but have met with its author and the NHS chief nurse who briefed me on their view of the content.

Now we wait to see the report. But if it doesn’t get Kim back to work, it doesn’t dismiss any managers and it doesn’t tackle the bullying culture – then it will all have been for nought.

0 thoughts on “Baby Peter and beyond – Great Ormond Street in the dock

  1. Lynne,

    While I have totally disagreed with your points of view on Sharon Shoesmith’s dismissal, I am impressed by how you have dealt with this.

    This is surely the very best example of how our Parliamentary servants serve us best. I am sure Kim and the public of Harringey will be better off for your involvement in this situation.

    Let’s just hope Kim is allowed to return to work soon and the report vindicates her completely.

  2. What’s your take on Nevres Kemal, who was on The Choice last week? She didn’t seem to manage her own case very well but it sounds horribly familiar to Kim Holt’s.

  3. Very similar. I worked with Nevres too – and she found exactly the same – the establishment turned on her rather than deal with the concerns she was raising. This is a deep-seated issue – and until whistleblowers are welcomed rather than ostracized and forced out of their jobs – it is the vulnerable children who will remain at risk.

  4. This demonstrates very nicely why whistleblowers should be encouraged to seek advice from their MPs.

    An effective MP like Lynne can be very helpful.

    It is also very important that MPs know what is happening in organisations which serve their constituents.

    After Stafford, ministers said that whistleblowers enjoy total legal protection. Lets see.

  5. I have not commented on a blog before.

    Lynne your help for Kim is exemplary, we all hope for a just outcome.

    However I am not one of those who condemn Sabah Al Zayyat, we need to look carefully at the nature of scapegoating. The establishment have turned on her.

    We need to look carefully at the expert opinions involved at the Baby P prosecution, and the strength of the evidence on which the experts based their opinions before we make these accusations.

  6. I wonder if anyone has considered if – as they are so “over stretched” there is a case to find out who is exactly burdening the NHS in Haringey or whether in fact the stretch is because too little is done by the management except try and sell of lucrative land like St Annes, instead of considering the impact of bad if not obvious malpractice. And has any one asked the patients of this particular set of overstretched doctors to come in and be seen by other doctors to verify their practice ? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know you child’s treatment is still in the hands of doctors who have no competency to see the issues of the child’s broken back?

    And what if Baby P had not died and the furore occured? This doctor and the others who would be supervised by her (or next time a him) when training would be creating a grand selection of ill trained and badly acting medical staff trained by the Primary Care and TEACHING Trust. Personally having moved out of Haringey because I had the grave misfortune to Live in the ward of BabY P I can say that doctors there have been misusing the system with private drug companies to the patients detriment for decades…mainly by claiming appointments that they didnt have, and of course as it was LAMMY again who was involved in creating the sort of complaints system that Haringey abides by (yes he did for medical complaints – and the charity that works to act as your advocate), then we have a system that spends hours in chains of paper work and has no real action from an external verification system. Even using the highly promoted NHS website where I could – it alleged – make comments about the doctors poor practice – I received an email returned that said that the matter I wrote to them was so serious that the website would ‘not accept’ the criticism. Of course the criticism would then be either to the doctors complaints system first or the NHS PCT (ho HO HO).

    I wonder if the doctor is like the ones in training at Whitttington Hospital, who I saw dab her finger tips in alcohol rub in a ward full of MRSA patients.

  7. Child protection is very complex work that needs not only enough time to assess the child but also to liaise with social services in particular. There is a critical mass of staffing below which the service becomes unsustainable. Individuals can overcome a failing system for a while, but not forever.
    We are seeing other hospitals failing and similar stories coming out that warnings were not heeded ( Stafford) or dealt with effectively by management. ( Milton Keynes).
    Lack of resources have been used to explain the problems in St Ann’s, but if that is the case, lets be open and up front about about it.
    Remember, I am not talking with hindsight, but having clearly written to management to the highest level in advance of the collapse of the service.
    I am glad that the public are now aware of the failings in the system as a whole so that efforts can be made to reduce the risks in the future. Looking at how we resource children’s services and support families may be one of the areas that need to be openly debated.