Health should pay too

How come social services are left to pick up the tab for the costly
review of cases where children were taken into care on the basis of
disputed medical evidence?

The review, which involved trawling through hundreds of files and
employing expensive legal experts, was ordered by children’s
minister Margaret Hodge, so surely her department should bear some
of the expense?

And given that it was supposedly poor advice from some doctors that
led to the problem in the first place, shouldn’t the health service
stump up something towards the bill?

In Kent, it cost £30,000 to unearth one case where a mistake
might have been made. If you are a member of the family involved in
that particular case and the professionals turn out to be wrong,
you may feel that was money well spent. But multiply that figure
across the rest of the country and it becomes clear this has been
an expensive exercise. And, given that questions have been raised
over the objectivity of councils investigating themselves, some
will wonder whether the review was worthwhile.

But what it does is highlight the importance of appointing the
right people with the right skills to handle these complex child
protection cases.

That was reinforced only too clearly this week at the General
Medical Council professional conduct hearing for paediatrician
David Southall.

With today’s stress on information-sharing it was perhaps right
that he alerted police to his concerns over the death of a child in
the Sally Clark case after watching a television programme. But he
allegedly wrote a report on it for solicitors without interviewing
the parents or having access to any of the papers about the case.
This seems extraordinary.

If pronouncements by doctors continue to be taken at face value in
this way we are going to have to carry out many more reviews like
the one that councils have just been at such pains to complete.

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