Health services condemned over Lauren's death

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An Independent report into the death of a six-year-old girl killed by her father and step-mother yesterday condemned health services for failing to give her proper care that could have saved her life.

A "series of errors" by health agencies meant Lauren Wright was not protected from Tracey and Craig Wright, who were jailed for manslaughter and neglect last year.

The report by a panel of experts commissioned by Norfolk County Council warned of "professional arrogance" among professionals, particularly paediatricians, and specifically criticised Dr Jonathan Dossetor, who saw Lauren weeks before her death.

Lauren had more than 60 bruises on her body when she died, and the report criticised Dr Dossetor for failing to ask for an independent explanation for her injuries when he saw her weeks before her death.

He will now be barred from dealing with any children thought at risk of abuse until he has been given extra training, but Gillian Shephard, the MP for Welney in Norfolk where Lauren lived, said the report should have provoked a series of resignations.

Barry Capon, the chairman of the report panel and a former chief executive of Norfolk County Council, said the errors and "lack of best practice... cumulatively led to the failure to safeguard Lauren".

"The health agencies did not give Lauren Wright the best service. If they had... it is most likely that she would have been protected.

"There was poor communication, failure to pursue diagnosis and over-reliance on other professionals to act," he said.

Lauren died at her home in May 2000 after being punched in the stomach so hard her digestive system collapsed. Her stepmother, Tracey Wright, 31, and father, Craig Wright, 38, were jailed for manslaughter and wilful neglect after a trial at Norwich Crown Court in October last year.

The report described how Dr Dossetor examined Lauren after a GP and social workers expressed concerns she was being abused. They and her teachers had noticed bruises, dramatic weight loss and a change in her personality.

Dr Dossetor said he felt that the explanations given by Tracey Wright, who said Lauren was a clumsy child who suffered repeated accidental injuries and was bullied at school, were plausible.

But the report criticised him for failing to ask for further investigation even though he was not entirely satisfied by the parent's account.

"The hospital paediatrician should have checked that the social worker was seeking an explanation for the injuries rather than assume she would contact him if an acceptable explanation was not forthcoming," it said.

The report criticised paediatricians for normally relying on parents for a child's history.

"When possible issues of child protection arise, greater scrutiny of parental reports is required and doctors need to think the unthinkable.

"In this case, no outside confirmation of Lauren Wright's recovery was sought. And no further consideration was given to the causes of the linear bruises in particular," it said.

Richard Venning, the chief executive of the King's Lynn and Wisbech Hospitals NHS Trust, said that he had met with Dr Dossetor and they had agreed that the paediatrician would take more child protection training under supervision.

"What we have agreed is that he will receive no further child protection referrals while he is undergoing that training," Mr Venning said.

The hospital considered disciplining Dr Dossetor but agreed with the Department of Health's view that it was better to introduce further training, he said.

The report also criticises poor communication by GPs and the way they used child protection procedures, as well as school nurses for failing to monitor Lauren properly.

Health authorities are criticised for selecting one of Dr Dossetor's colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Denis Barter, to write a report into the health authority's handling of the case immediately after the trial.

Mr Capon said his panel was asking the Royal College of General Practitioners to improve training, but said it was impossible to prevent a similar tragedy happening.

"Even with the very best of procedures there is always potential for human error. Even if all of our recommendations are adopted and implemented there will inevitably be similar tragic cases," he said.

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