The doctor accused of failing to detect that Baby P had a broken back and eight broken ribs has spoken of the “shocking and tragic circumstances” of the case.
Sabah al-Zayyat was the last medical professional to examine the 17-month-old toddler before his death, and the only person to be sacked in the investigation so far. In a statement released yesterday she said: “Like everyone involved in this case, I have been deeply affected by the shocking and tragic circumstances of this young child’s death.
“My professional career has been devoted to the care of children. I will cooperate with any investigation to identify whether lessons can be learnt from this case.” The doctor examined Baby P at a child development clinic at St Ann’s Hospital in North London shortly before his death. She noticed bruises to his body, but she decided that she could not carry out a full systemic examination as the boy was “miserable and cranky”.
Dr al-Zayyat, 52, told an Old Bailey jury this month: “He didn’t look any different to a child with a cold.” In fact, the court heard, his spine had been snapped “like a hinge”. He died two days later after being punched in the face.
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The doctor, who qualified in Pakistan and worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Britain in 2004, has since had her contract terminated with Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is responsible for child services in Haringey. She has also been banned from working unsupervised and faces an investigation by the General Medical Council.
The statement was released by the Medical Protection Society, which gives professional indemnity to health-care professionals.
Her husband, Nasim Osmani Subhi, a consultant obstetrician working in Ireland, said: “It’s too upsetting for us to talk right now. It is a difficult time.”
As the shock of the case continued to reverberate around the country yesterday, social workers from the Unison union joined in the chorus of anger and outrage.
In a joint statement issued after a Unison seminar in Manchester, they expressed their horror and outrage over the toddler’s death.
However, they also cautioned that bureaucracy was making their task more difficult. “Social workers now feel that there is so much red tape that it interferes with their ability to protect a child. They should not be intimidated by procedures but should be allowed to do their best for the child.”
According to one poll, eight out of ten social workers supported an overhaul of the management at Haringey council.
The survey by Community Care, a magazine and website for people working in the social care sector, also found that 86 per cent of 250 respondents felt that the case reflected systematic problems within childcare protection.
While attention focused on the system that failed Baby P, an impromptu shrine started to expand in the North London cemetery where the toddler’s ashes are scattered.
A stream of grieving members of the public came to pay their respects at the Remembrance Garden next to Islington crematorium, East Finchley, where, each day, another letter, poem, or cuddly toy is added to the bouquets of roses, lilies and carnations.
One mourner, Sarah Dee, from Colwyn Bay, North Wales, said: “I don’t want to leave, to be quite honest. As a mum, like every mum across the country, we’re all feeling it. I’m just absolutely devastated. I’m heartbroken.”
The three people convicted of involvement in the killing of the little boy face “substantial” terms in prison. Baby P’s mother, 27, her boyfriend, 32, and Jason Owen, 36, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on December 15 for causing or allowing his death.
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