The lonely death of Baby P was one of those moments that jolted the entire nation. That picture of the blond-haired infant in his blue jumper looking pleadingly into the camera became an iconic image, symbolising the horrors visited on those who fall through the fissures in society.
The death led to a series of inquiries, with social workers sacked and a doctor struck off. Four years on, the shockwaves still reverberate. Now they have rocked one of Britain’s most revered institutions.
Great Ormond Street Hospital stands accused of a seedy cover-up over its role in the scandal, embroiled in allegations so serious a Government Minister is demanding the head of the chief executive.
The charges against the hospital include ignoring doctors who sought to highlight failings, suspending a whistleblower and – though the hospital denies this – withholding vital information from official inquiries.
The saga demonstrates the danger of letting a hospital exert such a grip on public affection. Great Ormond Street has been turned into a powerful money-raising brand with a reputation to defend.
It is bad enough that the NHS has such sacred status that serious debate is stymied. Now we see what happens when a hospital, however vital its work, becomes hallowed.
For behind the cute logo lies an institution that suffers the flaws bedevilling other public services, as I know from grim personal experience. But it has become so untouchable that few dare speak out.