'Arrogance' of doctor who might have saved Lauren

by GORDON RAYNER, Daily Mail

A girl of six beaten to death by her stepmother could have been saved but for the 'arrogance' of a paediatrician who twice examined her, a report said yesterday.

Bruised and emaciated, Lauren Wright was referred to Dr Jonathan Dossetor because of suspicions that she was being abused.

But he accepted bogus explanations and did not bother to make follow-up inquiries because he was convinced he 'did not make mistakes'.

Lauren died in agony six weeks later after repeated beatings led to the collapse of her digestive system.

Dr Dossetor was singled out for criticism yesterday by an independent inquiry into the failings of Norfolk NHS workers.

Barry Capon, who chaired the inquiry, said: 'There was a kind of professional arrogance here - an attitude of "I'm right and I don't make mistakes so I don't need to talk to anyone else about it".

'This attitude has got to be addressed. The health agencies did not give Lauren Wright the best service. If they had, it is most likely she would have been protected.'

Dr Dossetor, based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, has been banned by King's Lynn and Wisbech Hospitals NHS Trust from taking on any more child protection cases until he has been re-trained and a 'mentor' is assigned to oversee his work.

But he will still receive an annual merit payment, believed to be £ 10,000, awarded several years ago for a 'well above average contribution to the NHS'.

Yesterday, Lauren's grandmother Christine Wright, at a meeting with Norfolk Health Authority officials, said: 'No one will say "I'm sorry, I made a mistake". Everyone seems to want to pass the buck.'

Lauren's natural mother, barmaid Jennifer Bennett, did not attend the meeting.

Before her death on May 6, 2000, Lauren, of Welney, Norfolk, was subjected to 17 months of torture and neglect by her stepmother Tracey Wright. Blunders by social workers, teachers and health workers left her at Tracey Wright's mercy despite repeated warnings from neighbours and even social workers in another county who were once assigned to her case.

Yesterday's report criticised Norfolk Social Services for their failure to protect Lauren and suggested an earlier inquiry into their role was 'not properly conducted' and 'missed the point'.

Dr Dossetor's involvement began on March 15, 2000. Lauren was referred to him by GP Paul Williams, who had concluded that bruises on her body were not caused by an accident.

Wright told Dr Dossetor Lauren had bumped into a door, collided with a dog, fallen on a wall and had been punched by school bullies. Dr Dossetor concluded she had been hit with a stick and arranged to see her again on March 20.

On the second occasion, Lauren had put on weight and seemed happier. Dr Dossetor was satisfied the 'bullying problem' was being tackled and arranged another appointment three months later. By that time Lauren would be dead.

A post-mortem revealed she had 60 bruises and weighed just 2st 2lb - the average weight for a three-year- old. The report said the two examinations were 'critical in the series of events leading to Lauren's death' and there were 'several instances of less than best practice' by Dr Dossetor.

He was 'clearly misled' by Wright and Lauren's father Craig and 'did not pursue the matter as expected'.

The report added: 'He 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.

'Professionals are capable of professional arrogance and a misplaced belief in their own skills. Protocols must provide for ready access to, and regular use of, second opinions.

'The tragedy is that Lauren was seen in a competent and timely manner, correctly diagnosed (by Dr Williams) as having been abused, referred to an appropriate colleague, but still died.'

Lauren, who was not on the child protection register, was not seen again by any doctor or social worker before her death, despite phone calls to Norfolk Social Services from worried neighbours. Teachers were also criticised at the time of her death for failing to report concerns about her bruises to social services.

Yesterday's report said social workers should have checked the bullying story with Lauren's school and criticised the 'poor communication' between teachers, social workers and doctors.

Last year David Wright, head of Norfolk Social Services, admitted his staff could have prevented Lauren's death if errors had not been made.

Mr Capon recommended that all consultants and GPs should have regularly updated training in child protection and paediatricians must be told 'their responsibility does not end with their diagnosis'.

All communications between doctors, social workers and teachers needed to be clearly documented and all referral letters to doctors should include past medical and social history.

Tracey Wright, 31, was given consecutive sentences of ten years for manslaughter and five years for cruelty.

Craig Wright, 38, who did nothing to stop Wright beating his daughter, was given three years for manslaughter and three years for cruelty, to run concurrently.

Dr Dossetor was yesterday unavailable for comment.

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