To the editor of the Lancet
We are responding to an article published in the Lancet on 18th June repeating allegations made by Lynne Featherstone, MP, that Great Ormond Street Hospital withheld vital information from enquiries into the tragic death of Peter Connelly. Your article was highly speculative and ill-informed.
We are really shocked that The Lancet would publish this article without first contacting the Trust. Ms Featherstone didn’t check her facts with us in advance and nor did you. The Lancet has always supported an evidence-based approach to medical care, sadly this article did not reflect that approach.
Ms Featherstone’s allegations about the Trust’s failure to share information are incorrect and unsubstantiated by the evidence. All members of the Trust Board, including us, reviewed the documentary evidence in response to each of her claims and could identify no intention by the then hospital management to hide anything. We concluded that reasonable decisions were made about the information sent to the first Serious Case Review and that the full Sibert report was shared with the second Serious Case Review.
Everyone seems to have missed that the highly critical CQC report in 2009 reproduces the Sibert criticisms and recommendations, not least because the Sibert report had been openly shared with them by us.
You ask three questions:
Have the events that led to the death of Peter Connelly been fully and transparently investigated? There has been a criminal trial, two Serious Case Reviews (unusually published in full), the Joint Area Review and follow-up, a specific Care Quality Commission report, two GMC hearings, and a number of other investigations such as the 2009 NHS London Report. This led the Coroner to hold that the death of Peter Connelly had been so thoroughly investigated that a further investigation would serve no useful purpose.
Have the right lessons been learned? The action plan arising from the death of Peter Connelly includes recommendations from all the above processes and is constantly updated in the light of professional and government advice. There is clearly an ongoing debate about child protection and sadly, despite these best efforts, society still fails to protect some children.
Have those who managed (and continue to manage) children’s services at GOSH and its associated facilities been held properly responsible for the quality of care they delivered? This Trust has always apologised for its failings in the care of Baby Peter and acknowledged that it didn’t get everything right, but it is hard to see the value of further investigations and scrutiny over and above those listed.
We employed a number of doctors in Haringey after 2003, and took over the rest of the service in 2008, after Peter Connelly had been killed. We have worked extremely hard to make things better for children . Earlier this year (February 2011), the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted published a report showing there had been ‘significant and sustained improvement’ in the services to safeguard children in Haringey. Recently, the service has been transferred to Whittington Health.
We know that a great many of our staff - doctors, nurses and others – are incredibly angry at the way the reputation of the hospital and Dr Collins have been called into question. It is no surprise to us that there was such personal support for her, and the Trust Board, at a recent senior staff meeting. The fact is that people who know Dr Collins have absolute faith in her personal integrity and her commitment to the quality and safety of patient care.
Your article didn’t just repeat Lynne Featherstone’s allegations. It also went on to hypothesize just why this alleged “cover up” might have happened.
You suggest the Trust’s application to become a Foundation Trust as one reason. Our FT application is irrelevant. We would not mislead any enquiry, whatever the reason. When the Sibert report was sent to us in May 2008, and the criminal trial was about to take place, the Trust was not in a position actively to apply for Foundation Trust status because of financial uncertainty about the withdrawal of our central research funding. The application process was formally restarted in Oct 2009. This particular theory falls apart once you know the timetable.
It doesn’t matter whether the death of a child occurs in Westminster or Wigan, agencies and individuals need to own up to their faults and draw lessons for the future. This is exactly how this Trust has behaved in its response to the tragic death of Peter Connelly.
Dr Barbara Buckley and Professor Martin Elliott, co-Medical Directors
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust
GOSH-ICH Press Office: 020 7239 3125
For genuine and urgent out of hours call speak to switchboard on 020 7405 9200