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.