Labour has been accused of using an X-ray image of a potential “victim of child abuse” in an election poster.
The image of a broken leg, which appears alongside the words “Next time, they’ll cut it to the bone,” is designed to criticise the Conservative Party’s policy on the NHS, however paediatricians say the bone is most likely of a three to five-year-old who has been “repeatedly submitted to violence.”
Professor Christopher Colton, emeritus consultant in orthopaedic and accident surgery at Nottingham University Hospital, told the Telegraph: “If that X-ray presented itself at a hospital, all the alarm bells would ring for possible non-accidental injury.
“There are absolutely clear two episodes of violence and possibly the bone bruise is a third.
“There is a fresh fracture in the middle of the leg, which is less than ten days old. Above the ankle there is a healed fracture consistent with a blow to the outer side of the leg, which is at least three to four weeks old.
“On the knee side of the main fracture, there is a slight white haze in the centre of the bone suggesting a healed bone bruise or a healed green stick fracture, about five to six weeks old.”
Although there is a possibility the child depicted could have brittle bone disease or a similar condition, Professor Colton said he was “90 percent certain” the injury was non-accidental.
He added that had contacted Labour campaign headquarters and his local MP to raise concerns over the image, but his calls were not returned.
“I felt that it was important that this was withdrawn. They have probably taken the picture from stock but they very foolishly chose an X-ray of a child.”
Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, agreed that the X-ray showed the leg of a child aged three to five, adding: “This X-ray shows significant injuries to a child’s lower leg. Both long bones – tibia and fibula – are fractured. The bones appear otherwise healthy and strong implying that significant force caused these injuries.”
He cautioned, however: “One must be careful not to over interpret a single relatively low quality image without more information.”
The controversial poster was unveiled last Friday by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham as Labour’s first major poster of the election campaign. Ed Balls said at the time: “George Osborne’s Budget set out plans for deeper and more extreme spending cuts after the election.
“Our NHS just can’t afford these extreme and risky Tory cuts. And after their broken promises on the NHS in this Parliament nobody will trust what the Tories say about the NHS.”
When presented with the claims over the image, a Labour spokesman said: “This image is a stock photograph provided by one of the world’s biggest picture agencies.
“This absurd Tory attack just shows how desperate Conservatives are to divert attention from their failing election campaign and their plans for extreme cuts to public services.”