Whistleblower pays price for criticising Haringey's childcare

A WHISTLEBLOWER who raised concerns about Haringey s paediatric services a year before Baby Peter died claims that she was hounded out of her job and offered a pay-off to stay silent. Dr Kim Holt, a senior consultant paediatrician who liv

Charlotte Newton

A WHISTLEBLOWER who raised concerns about Haringey's paediatric services a year before Baby Peter died claims that she was hounded out of her job and offered a pay-off to stay silent.

Dr Kim Holt, a senior consultant paediatrician who lives in Muswell Hill, was one of four consultants who wrote a letter to the management at Great Ormond Street, detailing problems at the Child Development Centre in St Ann's, a year before Baby Peter was examined there.

The consultants warned that the clinic - which was run by Haringey Primary Care Trust and managed by Great Ormond Street Hospital doctors - was understaffed and patients' lives were being put at risk.

Dr Holt, 50, said that after the letter was sent, she resisted further plans to make �350,000 cuts to the service.

But she claims that her concerns were ignored and she was bullied by managers. She says that when two of her four colleagues resigned, she was forced to take stress-related sick leave because of her workload. When she tried to return to work in August 2007, Great Ormond Street would not allow it, she says.

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It was in August 2007 that Peter Connelly was examined at the clinic by a temporary locum consultant who failed to spot that he had a suspected broken back.

He died two days later in his blood-splattered cot in Tottenham after suffering months of abuse.

Dr Holt told Broadway: "When I heard about Baby Peter's death, my initial thoughts were that Haringey's health services would have been implicated in some way because I'd been in the mind-set that something was going to happen within that department. Child protection is a multi-agency response it's not just social services.

"When I saw all the reports about Peter I felt angry because I knew that the health side [of child protection] had collapsed and my concerns had not been addressed."

Dr Holt claims that at a meeting in November 2007, after Peter had died, Great Ormond Street offered her �88,000 - her annual salary - to leave her job and remain silent.

She said: "If I'd taken that money no one would know about the failings in the paediatric services in Haringey. No one has taken responsibility and all the managers are still there.

"Since Peter's death, there has been investment in paediatrics but it shouldn't take a child to die for managers to listen.

"The scandal is that for the past two years I've been on full pay but I've not been allowed back to work in Haringey even though there is a shortage of paediatricians.

"This is what happens to whistleblowers in the NHS. Your career is damaged and patients lose out."

Dr Holt has been working part time since May 2009 in Camden and at Great Ormond Street while she waits for the matter to be resolved.

She decided to speak to Broadway after an independent NHS report concluded that cutting the number of consultant posts at St Ann's from four to two in 2006, had created an "excessive workload" for doctors and had been inadequately thought out by managers.

It described Dr Holt as highly intelligent and committed, and concluded that these issues "could have been managed more effectively in the interests of patient care".

But the authors concluded that while there was a negative atmosphere between clinicians and managers, there was no bullying regime."

The British Medical Association said on Tuesday that it would be seeking Dr Holt's reinstatement to St Ann's.

A spokesman for NHS Haringey said that St Ann's now has four more doctors as part of an on going investment in paediatric services. Great Ormond Street Hospital denied that it had tried to silence Dr Holt with a pay off and said that it was trying to resolve the employment dispute.