Doctor linked to 'British Fritzl' case suspended by GMC
Work of GP who missed signs of daughters' repeated sexual abuse was 'below minimum standard'
Sunday 30 November 2008
The family doctor who failed to spot injuries and signs of abuse on the daughters raped and abused by the "British Josef Fritzl" for 20 years was suspended from practising as a GP four years ago and has not worked as a doctor since.
Dr Thakur Singh, a GP in Sheffield, was suspended following a complaint by the South Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority about his poor performance. Assessors from the General Medical Council (GMC) found that Dr Singh's ability to assess and communicate with patients, treat emergencies, arrange investigations and keep records was below the minimum standard expected of a doctor.
Dr Singh told reporters last week that he treated the family for many years and had thought the father was a "nice man". He said: "I am so shocked about what has happened. I don't know why I failed to stop anything – I would need to see my notes again."
He claimed he was suspended because of poor record keeping. But minutes from the GMC hearings obtained by the IoS show his failings were more fundamental and far-reaching.
GMC assessors concluded that Dr Singh, who graduated in 1964 from Agra University in India, was seriously deficient in his performance, "which could lead to patients being exposed on a regular basis to significant risks in the provision of health care".
It is not clear how many patients, colleagues or managers raised concerns about his work or when complaints began.
Dr Singh treated both daughters throughout their childhood, after the physical and sexual abuse began. He continued to treat them through 19 pregnancies, including 10 miscarriages and two child deaths, but never raised concerns about their safety or the welfare of their children.
Before the doctor's suspension, the girls' father continued to bring his daughters and their children to see Dr Singh after they had moved away from Sheffield. As a result, the doctor was the one professional to have contact with the whole family over a long period of time.
In all, social workers, police and doctors missed 150 separate opportunities to intervene over two decades. Family members said they reported their suspicions to the authorities many times over two decades but no action was taken. An investigation has been launched to find out why.
Social work experts said this weekend that disclosure of incest is extremely rare and is largely dependent on the victim forming a trusting relationship with a professional.
The father supposedly moved the girls every few months to avoid detection by social workers, teachers and police.
One senior social worker said: "In these types of cases, there is no clear starting point. But a family that moves all the time, multiple teenage pregnancies, children born with learning disabilities – these are all things that should raise suspicions. But they need to be followed and investigated over time."
She added: "Disclosure from a victim is very rare. When it does happen, it usually comes after an episode of physical abuse or when a child has run away: after some sort of crisis.
"But this is dependent on a strong and trusting relationship between the victim and the professional, as well as the professional having the skills to ask the right questions in the right way. By repeatedly moving the family, the girls might never have developed such a relationship with a teacher or social worker or anyone at all."
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