A doctor accused of failing to spot that Baby Peter was suffering abuse days before his death is "suicidal" and unfit to appear before a disciplinary hearing, the General Medical Council heard today.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat was due to face misconduct allegations at a GMC fitness to practise panel in central London this morning.
But the hearing was halted after being told that her mental health had "broken down" and she has left the country.
Counsel for the GMC, Rebecca Poulet QC, said she received a report last night from a doctor who had examined Dr Al-Zayyat.
The consultant psychiatrist wrote: "In my opinion, Dr Al-Zayyat has become so seriously ill that she is unfit to defend herself before a public hearing and unfit to instruct her solicitors.
"The pressure on her has been such that her mental health has broken down completely, and the possibility of suicide is a very real one."
Mary O'Rourke QC, for Dr Al-Zayyat, said her instructing solicitor was told this morning that the doctor was no longer in the UK.
GMC panel chairman Ralph Bergmann adjourned the hearing for an hour and indicated that he would hear more detailed submissions about Dr Al-Zayyat's health in private.
Ms O'Rourke said that, in the light of the psychiatrist's diagnosis, she considered herself to be without legal instructions from Dr Al-Zayyat.
She told the panel: "Our position, so far as today is concerned, is we do not believe we can do more than lay the medical evidence before you."
Dr Al-Zayyat saw Baby Peter - who can now be named as Peter Connelly - at a child development clinic at St Ann's Hospital in Tottenham, north London, on August 1 2007.
But she missed his injuries after deciding she could not carry out a full check-up because he was "miserable and cranky".
Two days later, 17-month-old Peter died in a blood-spattered cot in Haringey, north London, at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.
A post-mortem examination found he had probably suffered serious injuries, including a broken back and fractured ribs, before he was examined by Dr Al-Zayyat.
The doctor, who qualified in Pakistan and worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Britain in 2004, was suspended from practice by the GMC in November 2008.
The GMC announced earlier this month that she was facing misconduct allegations over her treatment of Peter.
She is accused of knowing he was on the child protection register but failing to carry out an adequate examination, failing to investigate the explanation offered for his injuries and failing to record whether she considered the possibility that he was the victim of child abuse.
It is also alleged that Dr Al-Zayyat failed to diagnose that Peter had suffered physical abuse, possible neglect and emotional abuse, and did not arrange for him to be admitted to hospital.
She is also alleged to have applied for a job in Ireland without telling her prospective employers she had been suspended over the tragedy.
Dr Al-Zayyat had her contract with Great Ormond Street Hospital terminated after details of the Baby Peter case came to light.
She has since launched a claim for damages against the world-famous children's hospital over her dismissal.
A report by health regulator the Care Quality Commission last May criticised staffing levels at St Ann's.
Dr Al-Zayyat had no contact with Peter's social worker before or after the appointment and was given no details about the child's previous hospital admissions, the commission noted.
She was one of only two consultants at the specialist children's clinic at St Ann's, when there should have been four.
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 last May for causing or allowing his death.Reuse content