Last week Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust published the report of the review it had commissioned from Verita into the governance of its paediatric haematology and oncology service, in light of the conviction of Dr Myles Bradbury for sexually assaulting some of his patients at the unit over several years.
The Trust needed to know if any of its staff had known or suspected what Myles Bradbury was up to, or if they should have known or suspected. Typically in such cases, evidence emerges after the event that there were concerns or worries, but for one reason or another no effective action was taken. The trust also wanted recommendations to reduce the risk of recurrence in future.
I and Barry Morris, Verita partner, carried out the review and co-authored the report. We interviewed nearly 50 people, mainly staff on the unit and in the trust, but also families of patients, regulators, experts and Myles Bradbury.
Rather to our surprise, and not until we had asked a great many questions of a great many people, we concluded that there had been no prior suspicion of any untoward behaviour, and that staff had not overlooked any obvious clues that should have alerted them.
We identified a number of specific ways in which the Trust could and should improve policies and processes to make it more difficult for staff to misuse their authority with patients and get away with it.
Some of these recommendations have relevance across the NHS, particularly our suggestion that patients and families should be given more information about the details of treatment and the expected behaviour of staff, and should be encouraged to raise any query about any aspect of care treatment or behaviour at any time.
Safeguarding children is a work in progress, in which we are all learning all the time. We hope that this report will add to the learning.