Feature Child Protection

Great Ormond Street and Baby P: was there a cover up?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4691 (Published 02 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4691
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. 1BMJ, London, UK
  1. ClareDyer{at}aol.com

Four years after the death of “Baby P,” arguments are still continuing about the response of the UK’s leading children’s hospital. Clare Dyer reports

Baby Peter Connelly had bruises on his face and back and a two month old lesion on his head when he was seen by Sabah Al-Zayyat, a locum consultant paediatrician, at the child development centre at St Ann’s hospital in Tottenham, north London, on 1 August 2007. The bruises were typical of abuse, according to the two leading paediatricians who later reviewed Dr Al-Zayyat’s work at St Ann’s, and should have raised suspicion—particularly in a toddler who, as the notes showed, was on the child protection register.

It was the last chance to save his life but it was missed. He was sent home, and a letter went to Great Ormond Street Hospital referring him for investigation for possible metabolic disease. Two days later, aged just 17 months, he was dead. A postmortem examination found eight fractured ribs; a broken back; an area of bleeding around the spine at neck level; numerous bruises, cuts, and abrasions, including a large gouge in his head; a tear in his frenulum that was partially healed; and missing nails. One ear lobe had been pulled away from his head, and a tooth was found in his colon. In November 2008 his mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend, and his brother were convicted of causing or allowing his death, and a media storm erupted.

The case of Baby P—his full name was not released at first—became a cause célèbre. The picture of the blond, blue eyed toddler in his bright blue pullover who was so let down by health professionals and social services sparked public outrage. Government ministers looked for someone to blame. Attention focused mainly on the social workers rather than …

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