New Guidelines Launched To Help Doctors Raise Abuse Alarm
The General Medical Council have developed new guidelines to protect children from abuse and offer support to those wary of reporting any concerns. This follows worries from the profession that complaints from parents were deterring some doctors from raising child protection concerns.
Called ‘Protecting Children and Young People: The Responsibilities of All Doctors’ the new guidance states that ‘it is vital that all doctors have the confidence to act if they believe that a child or young person may be being abused or neglected…Taking action will be justified even if it turns out that the child or young person is not at risk of, or suffering abuse or neglect, as long as the concerns are honestly held and reasonable and the doctor takes action through appropriate channels.’
The guidance has taken over two years to come to fruition following the investigations of a working group chaired by senior family judge the Rt Hon Lord Justice-Thorpe who heard evidence from a range of child protection experts. The guidance was also prompted by claims that opportunities were missed to help 17 month old Peter Connolly ‘Baby P’ who died in August 2007 after months of abuse.
The new guidance will be issued to over 23,000 doctors across the country and asks them to consider whether the patient poses a risk to children or young people. Support will also be given to doctors who have worries about a child or a young person. Each trust will also have a designated professional that all doctors can turn to for advice.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said ‘Child protection is a complex and emotionally challenging area of practice for any professional and doctors in particular can find themselves having to make difficult and delicate judgments in a charged atmosphere. The decisions made or not made as a result can have far-reaching consequences. We very much hope doctors will find this guidance useful, not least in making clear what is expected from them in this critically important area.’
Dr Amanda Thomas, child protection officer at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health also welcomed the new guidance and stated that it provided a valuable framework for doctors, ‘We’re pleased to see that it addresses all doctors because whether they have a specific safeguarding role or not, every doctor has a responsibility to protect children.’