Baby P doctor suspended

Baby P's GP was suspended by the UK's General Medical Council for 12 months today for a series of failures in his care of the toddler.

Jerome Ikwueke's omissions, including failing to spot the little boy was suffering abuse eight days before his death, "amounted to a failure to protect a vulnerable child and so prevent harm", a disciplinary panel found.

But the GMC decided to suspend the 63-year-old doctor rather than strike him off the medical register after concluding he did not pose a risk to patients and had taken steps to remedy issues identified through the Baby P case.

Dr Ikwueke, 63, noted that the little boy had changed from his usual happy self, seemed "withdrawn" and pulled away when he saw him for the last time on July 26 2007.

The doctor breached his professional duty towards the child in not carrying out a full examination, making an urgent referral for further checks or sharing information with a health visitor or social workers, the GMC ruled at an earlier hearing.

The GMC committee had already found that Dr Ikwueke's fitness to practise was impaired by his misconduct in Baby P's care.

Baby P - now named as Peter Connelly - died in Tottenham, north London, eight days after the consultation. He was just 17 months old.

In announcing its decision, the GMC's disciplinary panel said that "despite the serious breaches", his misconduct was "not fundamentally incompatible" with continued registration as a doctor.

Panel chairman Judith Worthington said: "The panel notes that the GMC concedes that you do not present a danger to patients in the future.

"Whilst the panel is concerned at your limited insight before and during this hearing, it has concluded, on the basis of your extensive remedial work and your acknowledgement now of your misconduct, that you do not pose a risk of repeating this behaviour.

"Further, there is no evidence that you have any deep-seated attitudinal or personality problems.

"The panel has also noted your undoubted remorse in relation to these events and the adverse effect on you personally."

As the family GP, Dr Ikwueke saw Peter at his north London surgery at least 14 times in the months before his death.

The GMC panel ruled that he should have considered the possibility of child abuse when he noticed the toddler had bruises on his chest and head at an appointment on October 13 2006.

Instead, he accepted a claim by the child's mother that he had fallen downstairs at "face value".

Peter suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.

His mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and his brother, Jason Owen, were jailed at the Old Bailey in May last year for causing or allowing his death.

In giving the panel's decision, Mrs Worthington said Dr Ikwueke breached his professional duty towards Peter, adding: "It constituted a series of failures over a period of 10 months, culminating in your grave error of judgment at the consultation on July 26, 2007."

Dr Ikwueke told the GMC he saw his child protection role as "lighting the fuse and then letting the system go ahead and deal with it".

According to Mrs Worthington, this did not absolve the GP of his duty even though he was the first professional to raise the possibility of abuse.

"It was your duty to be proactive," she said. "It was not sufficient simply to 'light the fuse'."

The panel highlighted Dr Ikwueke's "previous unblemished record" and the esteem in which he was held by patients and doctors, who described him as a "conscientious, hard-working and caring doctor, often going beyond the call of duty".

It also took account of the "extensive" steps he had taken to address deficiencies, undertake further study on child protection and make changes to procedures in his surgery.

Dr Ikwueke, who qualified as a doctor in Nigeria and worked as a GP for nearly 20 years, did not speak to waiting reporters after the hearing in central London.

He has 28 days to appeal against the decision.

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