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Primary care blog: What we can do to prevent another Baby P

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The tragic case of Baby P sent shivers through the national consciousness and raised questions across the spectrum of health and social care. Our primary care expert Lynn Young says it is time for lessons to be learned.

I prefer blogs to have a spirit of cheerfulness about them, but this week it is really hard to avoid the tragic and pitiful case of Baby P. And of course, we are all incredulous when told that between social care workers, health professionals and the police no less then 60 home visits were made to Baby P’s cruel home.

The kind of short life was endured by this most unlucky of babies cannot be imagined by those of us brought up in imperfect, but basically loving households.

Why do we seem incapable of learning from other tragic stories of brutal child abuse? I still remember the public outcry that, with absolute justification accompanied the death of Maria Colwell in the 1960s.

In more recent times cases such as Jasmine Beckford create huge media outcry, heated parliamentary debate, outrage from the public and charities that look after children, and various inquiries.

Following a horribly expensive inquiry, reports are written and recommendations made. Health and social care agencies, along with other organisations review their systems, add further training programmes, write various mission statements, and then what happens? Another poor and innocent child dies at the hand of adults, who without doubt were damaged when they were children.

And this is the truth of the matter - cycles of brutality and deprivation have a habit of repeating them elves. However dismayed we are at the adults who brought pain and suffering to Baby P, the likelihood is that they were reared without unconditional love and devotion. We love others because we learnt about love from the very beginning of our humble lives.

But, back to the services which all had a part to play in the death of Baby P. It seems we cannot blame staff shortages, when no less then 60 different home visits were made and it may well be that copious records were maintained on the welfare of the child.

One public comment made, clearly by a very wise and experienced person alluded to the fact that in modern times we seem to be fixated on structures and processes, rather then professional judgement, clarity of thought and the ability to make a decision.

We get sidetracked by processes and seeing the point of view of the adults, not the welfare of the child at risk. People concerned with the health and wellbeing of children must always remember that it is common for adults to harm babies and small children who are unable to fend for themselves. Bullying is rife and always has been, but it is doubly shocking in 2008 to be reminded that the conditions described by Dickens are alive and kicking.

So, will the case of poor little Baby P be the one, where lessons are learned and a brave person with a significant profile demand the following:

  • keep process to an absolute minimum, remove all shreds of oppressive systems and senseless paper work;

  • appoint people with character, courage and integrity;

  • train them superbly and provide constant, wise support and supervision;

  • trust people to make judgements, which although, occasionally will be wrong is the only way to safe guard children better.

And may Baby P rest in peace.

This blog also appears on Nurses’ Universe

See also: RCN calls for social services review following tragic death of ‘Baby P’

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thank-You Lynn for getting to the heart of the matter.

    I am constatntly dismayed at the lack of training health professionals seem to get at many levels.
    I work in elderly care, where concerns over budgets often seem to result in little or training for care workers & lack of professional devolpment & support for qualified staff. Organisations seem to want a paper trail which will protect them & not the clients it is caring for.
    Staff do need training, support & have some autonomy for decision making whivch they then take responsiblity for.

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