An independent NHS London report published today has found that consultants’ concerns about workload and poor communication in paediatric services in Haringey “were genuinely and reasonably held.”
The report concluded that these issues “could have been managed more effectively in the interests of patient care.”
The investigation was prompted by Dr Kim Holt, one of four consultant paediatricians who formally raised concerns about the service as early as 2006.
A lack of staffing and excessive workload were reported at the clinic where doctors had failed to spot a broken back in the Baby P case.
Dr Holt says: “Our concerns throughout were for the quality of care for the children being seen at the clinic. We followed internal trust channels, only going outside when they had been exhausted. I hope now that everyone will be able to learn from this report and move on. I want to contribute positively to improving services for children in Haringey, which was always my objective.
“I also hope that in future it will be far easier for NHS staff, in Haringey or anywhere, to speak out in the interests of their patients, particularly those who have no voice of their own.”
The BMA is seeking the reinstatement of Dr Holt who, after the letter was sent, was placed on special leave relating to work-related stress. She is currently working on secondment to two other paediatric posts pending the outcome of the inquiry.
The report stated that Dr Holt: “is entitled to feel aggrieved when, having raised patient safety and other concerns, she later [found] herself in the position where she [was] told she cannot return to her job.”
It questioned whether she was adequately protected in accordance with Great Ormond Street’s whistle-blowing policy and recommended further mediation to ensure she can return to work as quickly as possible.
Dr Mark Porter, Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, said:“This has been a sad and extremely difficult case for everyone involved, and one that shows how hard it can be for doctors to raise their concerns. The NHS and all its constituent organisations must get better at recognising the invaluable service to patients performed by those who raise well-founded concerns about safety and quality.”
A BMA survey earlier this year found that three quarters (74%) of hospital doctors have had concerns about issues relating to patient safety, malpractice or bullying over the course of their careers. Seven in ten (70%) had raised the issues at their trust, but their experiences had often been negative, for example because they were unaware that anything had happened as a result (46%) or their trusts had indicated that by speaking up, their employment could be negatively affected (15%).