Great Ormond Street failed Baby P too!

When I found out that the last doctor to see Baby Peter failed to recognise a broken back and ribs – like the rest of the nation I thought she must be a terrible doctor. And she clearly was. However, I also read that she was a locum – and ever since then I have been digging and digging to find out why there was a locum and what lay beneath.

I found out. And whilst I have no doubt that Haringey Labour Council and Sharon Shoesmith were first in line for retribution being the lead agency and lead individual – I have also had no doubt that there were other agencies who were just as bad.

There was a locum because the consultant pediatricians, four of them, in the children’s health department in Haringey (commissioned by Haringey PCT and run by Great Ormond Street – GOSH) had either left, been off permanently sick or on special leave! On digging I found that these doctors had raised their concerns with GOSH and been ignored. Yet again – management taking no notice of dangers being flagged up by professionals – just as the police and a senior social worker at Haringey raised concerns that Baby P should be taken away from the family.

I raised it on my blog. I got Norman Lamb (Lib Dem Health Spokesperson) to raise it in a health debate. I raised it myself in a speech in the chamber. But it is only now that investigative journalist for the Evening Standard, Andrew Gilligan, has found out the real detail of the story and broken it in the paper that the part that GOSH and Haringey PCT played in Baby P’s death is coming to light. He actually has a copy of the letter to the management at GOSH saying that they don’t believe the management has taken their concerns seriously and listing the reasons that children’s lives were at risk.

And yesterday – the Health Care Commission report into Baby P’s death also came out with findings that make it clear that there were systemic and individual failings in GOSH and the Health Trusts – all scandalous stuff.

What has been going on in children’s health in Haringey is practically a mirror image of what was going on in Haringey Council, Children’s Services and the Safeguarding Board.

I hope that this now all comes to light and that equally drastic and appropriate action is taken.

Needless to say – I will be writing to Ed Balls in this regard.

Baby P and accountability: what happens when services are outsourced?

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?

Tanzania: another case of BAe corruption allegations

Corruption is major news today. No – not (just) the second arrest of Lord Levy, but the opposition debate on the stinking deal involving BAe (the alleged ‘briber’); the Government (who issued an export license for a military air traffic radar control system for Tanzania) and Barclays Bank who loaned Tanzania the money.

Basic story – BAe sell Tanzania this radar system which is far too expensive and sophisticated for Tanzania’s real needs, and yet only covers one third of the country. Price tag: a hefty £28 million.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and a country to whom we are pouring in aid. So is this a sensible deal?

Barclays Bank appears to give them a loan on concessionary rates – as a commercial one would have too high interest and break the criteria imposed by the Government on granting export licenses for arms and military radar etc.

This all broke wide-open when two middle-men owed up to having been bribed $12 million in a Swiss Bank to see this deal through. Clearly this all stinks and that was my first debate leading on International Development for the Liberal Democrats. My colleague Norman Lamb had done a lot of work on this in 2002, so good steps to follow in! You can read my speech in Hansard.

This was a Tory Opposition Day motion, very narrowly defined so as not to stray into even more murky territory of the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia on which the Labour Government intervened to stop the Serious Fraud Office investigating corruption. The Tories did not want this mentioned as they were hopelessly compromised as the deal was struck when they were in power – and there is also the matter of the financial relationship between one of the middlemen on the deal and the Conservative party.

Of course Labour said it was right to have granted the license to export the traffic control system – but it is quite clear that this was not a kosher deal. So – we wait for the Serious Fraud Office to pursue its investigation all the way.