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Doctor sacked in Baby P case sues hospital trust

Paediatrician who failed to notice broken back and ribs claims unfair dismissal

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Saturday 20 June 2009 00:00 BST

The consultant paediatrician who was blamed for failing to notice that Baby P had a broken back and ribs days before his death is claiming compensation for unfair dismissal.

Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat missed the injuries after deciding she could not carry out a full check-up because the little boy was "miserable and cranky".

Two days later, on 3 August 2007, baby Peter died in a blood-splattered cot in Haringey, north London, at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger.

Dr Al-Zayyat had her contract with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) terminated after the case came to light. The hospital has since been accused of scapegoating the doctor for more overall failings in the care of Baby P.

She has now launched a claim for damages against the hospital.

A Great Ormond Street spokeswoman said: "We can confirm we have received notice of legal action. The trust will vigorously defend its position.

"We believe we acted fairly and in the interests of patients. Detailed rebuttal of Dr Al-Zayyat's claims will have to wait for any hearing.

"We didn't scapegoat her. The case surrounds her dismissal from GOSH following the decision not to renew her fixed-term contract."

A post-mortem examination found 17-month-old Peter had probably suffered serious injuries, including a broken back and fractured ribs, before he was examined by Dr Al-Zayyat at St Ann's Hospital in Tottenham, north London. The doctor, who qualified in Pakistan and worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Britain in 2004, was suspended from practice by the General Medical Council in November last year. A report by health regulator the Care Quality Commission last month 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.

In November the paediatrician spoke of her distress at what happened to Peter. In a statement released through the Medical Protection Society, which gives professional indemnity to healthcare professionals, she said: "Like everyone involved in this case, I have been deeply affected by the shocking and tragic circumstances of this young child's death."

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