12 June 2011

Why one of Great Ormond Street Hospital's finest is spinning in her grave

Lynne Featherstone and a number of other Lib Dem bloggers have been highlighting the strange case of world renowned children's hospital Great Ormond Street withholding information from the inquiry into the killing of baby Peter Connelly. They have rightly called for the Chief Executive, Jane Collins, to resign as a result of her involvement in what appears to be a cover up.

Here's where I declare a personal interest in Great Ormond Street hospital. My late great aunt, a fantastic (if somewhat eccentric woman - as all great aunts should be) was one of the most famous doctors to work there. She even had a ward named after her - the Mildred Creak Unit - which to this day deals with young people with mental health problems.

Dr Mildred Creak could even be said to have invented modern child psychiatry. And it's not only the UK her contribution has been recognised. Down under there is the Mildred Creak Centre for the Treatment of Autistic Children in Perth.

Aunt Mildred was one of the first women in the UK to qualify in medicine just after the first world war. She was rejected from 90 posts because of anti-woman doctor prejudice, but eventually found employment through her faith - the Quakers - at a mental hospital in York. Before arriving at Great Ormond Street she won a scholarship to the states and did her war duty in India. She worked at Great Ormond Street from 1946-1963 when she retired. She died in 1993 aged 95 and the Independent did a splendid, if brief, obituary of her then.

Mildred Creak (and her sister - my grandmother) was born and brought up in Cheadle Hulme in the first part of the last century. Their solidly middle class railway engineer father married into the slightly less solid Irish/Scots/Manx McCrossan family, one of whom - their aunt Mary McCrossan became a minor artist.

They were Unitarians, committed Liberals and their mother active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement (though opposed to the excesses of the Pankhursts). They remembered Churchill losing his Withington seat in 1908 on being promoted to Asquith's Cabinet.

Sometime during the first world war the family moved to Surrey and then later to Highgate where they lived next door to a family called Betjeman where the two girls would play with their son John when he wasn't away boarding at Marlborough school.

Anyway family history aside, what is clear is that any children's hospital that refuses to fully comply with an investigation into the death of one of their patients would have received short shrift from such a formidable woman as Mildred Creak. The fact her name is to this day is an integral part of an organisation that is led by someone who refuses to take responsibility for failures on their personal watch diminishes her achievements and tarnishes the reputation of a previously ground breaking hospital. Aunt Mildred (if she hadn't been cremated) would be spinning in her grave.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure she would be spinning in her grave at children with physical conditions like ME being admitted there and subjected to very unsuitable treatment (plus taking a bed away from a child with mental health problems who could benefit). However she must be so proud of all the great work she did, I'm not aware of any other wards at gosh named after anyone