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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