At last, an opportunity to get out on record some of the issue around the health team’s part in the Baby P tragedy.
The health issues involved in Baby P are huge and in my view the health side has got off lightly thus far. I have previously posted some bits about the Baby P health issues on my blog, but so far this aspect has got relatively little attention from the media.
Therefore for the health and education debate on the Queen’s Speech this week – I briefed Norman Lamb on a few of the key issues which he raised in his opening speech. I paste them here for your information.
I would also add that I personally took the issues of bullying (the previous inspection by the Health Care Commission had found extremely high levels of bullying) and bad management leading to resignations and danger for children at risk in Haringey directly to the Chair of the PCT (Primary Care Trust). The response I got was simply that the service was now commissioned from Great Ormond Street Hospital. He said he would look into it anyway.
When I went back the week before last to discuss amongst other issues the health team part in Baby P – the first thing said to me was ‘thank goodness we are screened from the worst of the fall out from Baby P’. I thought this symptomatic of the problems with outsourcing or commissioning – no-one is accountable or responsible – albeit it was a statement of the bleeding obvious as Haringey and Sharon Shoesmith and Haringey Labour Council had rightly been first in the firing line.
At least when I remonstrated and said as MP for the area who was I to go to if not the Trust with these sorts of problems – Tracy Baldwin (CEO), who was there at the meeting, had the grace to say yes it was the Trust and they were accountable and they were the commissioners. Clearly she had not been told that I had come previously with such issues of importance.
So – roll on a proper investigation not just of the actuality of who did what in terms of failing Baby P – but also in terms of the problems left festering in the health team because no one took responsibility for sorting it – but just outsourced it!
Anyway, here’s Norman’s contribution in Parliament:
The Healthcare Commission drew attention, too, to the fact that there were areas of serious concern. Ian Kennedy, the chair of the Healthcare Commission, focused on patient safety, and I want to concentrate for a few minutes on the area of most significance—child protection, particularly the tragedy involving Baby P. Again, it is important again to acknowledge that the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families acted commendably fast in recognising the seriousness of the failings and in mapping out a way forward. However, it is also right to say that so far, the emphasis and focus, particularly in the media, have been on the failings of the local authority—and there were many—rather than on the failings of other agencies. I think that there are lessons to be learned, and it is important to reflect on them for a moment, particularly the situation in the local health service, because serious concerns have been raised with me.
I understand that the paediatric service for child protection in the borough was outsourced to Great Ormond Street. I understand that there was a team of four doctors, of whom two have resigned, one has been on special leave for a year, and one is off sick. Given the fundamental importance of that work—I make these comments not in any sense in a partisan way, as we all have a common view of the importance of addressing these issue—that is an alarming situation in itself. Incidentally, if either Secretary of State is unable to respond to these points today, I am happy for them to respond in writing later. What factors have led to this situation? Why has one of the doctors whom I mentioned been on long-term special leave for a year? Is it the case that the primary care trust cut funding for a designated doctor post, and is it the case that the paediatrician who did not recognise the broken back and ribs in the case of Baby P was a locum employee?
I have heard concern expressed that when children are brought into St. Ann’s hospital in Tottenham as possible victims of abuse, there is a tendency for no information to arrive with the child to put the medical team fully in the picture about possible concerns. That relates to the issues of co-ordination and the sharing of information between agencies dealt with in the report released by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. I understand that when one doctor filled in a critical incident form at that hospital, in relation to another case, he was told not to do so because it would show up poor record keeping. I do not know whether there is any truth in that allegation, but it is a serious matter and it clearly needs to be investigated. What short-term steps have been taken to ensure that there are proper safeguards in place for other vulnerable babies and children in that borough? What are the longer-term lessons for the NHS—as opposed to the local authority, which has had its fair share of attention—particularly with regard to the responsibility and accountability of the clinicians involved?