Great Ormond Street: a hospital in serious trouble

Among the general public, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children still has a high reputation. Criticising it sometimes feels a bit like questioning the health of Prince Charles’s marriage in, say, 1985. But in the annual assessment exercise by the NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission, its rating has declined from “excellent” first to “good” and then merely to “fair.” And in the medical profession, there are deep concerns about what has been happening at this celebrated institution.

After the hospital’s serious failings in the Baby P case, as documented at length by me and BBC London’s Tim Donovan, the respected medical journal, The Lancet, stated in a recent editorial (free but requires registration) that “if Great Ormond Street’s management team had been in Wigan they would almost certainly have departed by now. Perhaps Great Ormond Street is just too important to be seen to fail, even when a child dies.” A government minister has called on the chief executive to resign. This week’s Lancet includes a letter from a number of GOS consultants demanding an independent inquiry (as well as one from the hospital defending itself.)

Increasingly, however, it is clear that the hospital’s problems are wider than those exposed by Baby P. My story in today’s paper starts:

“The crisis at the world’s most famous children’s hospital has been laid bare by damning leaked documents.

“In emails, letters and secret internal reports, consultants at Great Ormond Street Hospital say that vital medical services have been “destroyed,” patient safety is “at risk” and they have been “harassed and targeted” by management for raising their concerns.

“In one of the leaked letters, Dr Cathy Owens, one of the world’s most eminent child radiologists and herself a Great Ormond Street consultant, says there is a “culture of fear” in the hospital with “malicious and vexatious targeting” of doctors who complain.

“She says her department is in a “dire situation” after steep job cuts and a number of experienced consultants being forced from their posts. Dr Owens is the current general secretary, and former president, of the European Society of Paediatric Radiology.”

You will also see Christine Hall, emeritus professor at Great Ormond Street and a former consultant at the hospital, quoted as saying that “management at the hospital has failed on all levels from the top down…I speak to other clinicians around the country, and they all ask: what is going on there?”

Read the whole thing here.

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