13/05/2009

NHS Criticised Over Baby P 'Systematic Failings'

The National Health Service (NHS) has come under fire for a catalogue of "systematic failings" which contributed to Baby P's death.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) today released the report which showed Baby P - now revealed to be called Peter, from Haringey in London – had been seen by health services 35 times by the time he died after suffering horrific abuse.

The 18-month-old died after receiving more than 50 injuries from his mother, her partner and their lodger.

In its report, the CQC raised questions about how the NHS assures itself important standards for safeguarding children are being met.

It added that Haringey's services were poor, leading to an apology from the NHS trusts involved.

Investigators found a "catalogue of errors", including chronic staff shortages, inadequate training, long delays in seeing the toddler, and poor communication between police, health workers and social services.

The health watchdog said that anyone of the doctors and other health workers who had seen Baby Peter could have picked up that he was suffering abuse if they had been "particularly vigilant" and gone "beyond what was required".

The CQC pointed out that staff did not follow protocols when they were in place.

The report said the consultant who saw Peter two days before his death and noted bruises and marks over his body did not alert a social worker.

The paediatrician was Dr Sabah al-Zayyat, a locum who is one of two doctors suspended and being investigated by the General Medical Council.
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She did not carry out a full examination of Peter - allegedly because he was miserable and cranky.

Later, a post mortem examination revealed a broken back and ribs, among a number of other injuries, that are believed to have pre-dated his appointment.

CQC Chief Executive Cynthia Bower said: "This is a story about the failure of basic systems. There were clear reasons to have concern for this child but the response was simply not fast enough or smart enough.

"The NHS must accept its share of the responsibility. The process was too slow.

"Professionals were not armed with information that might have set alarm bells ringing. Staffing levels were not adequate and the right training was not universally in place.

"Social care and healthcare were not working together as they should. Concerns were not properly identified, heard or acted upon.

"The NHS trusts involved have already responded robustly and made clear improvements," she said.

Tracey Baldwin, Chief Executive of NHS Haringey said her Trust was making "fundamental changes right across the board".

She said: "We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologise without reserve for the failures identified in this and other reports.

"We failed to understand the level of danger that Baby Peter was in and what he needed to be safe.

"We, along with the whole country, have been moved by the sad life and tragic death of Baby Peter.

"Our apology is heartfelt, and matched by our absolute commitment to create an NHS service for vulnerable children that is exemplary."

(JM/BMcC)

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