Child Protection

Background

  • As doctors (and all other health care professionals which will come into contact with children), there is a responsibility to raise concerns about child welfare, in particular with regards to the child’s health.  By law, it is a doctors duty to report any concerns or suspicions regarding child welfare to the appropriate service (in most places, the child protection nurse)

Referring in Tayside

see here for guidelines and referral pathways (very in depth- but the appendices are useful and there is also a good explanation of the laws and standards governing child protection)

Communicating with Parents

The GMC suggests the following:

  • Good communication with parents is essential.
    • In most cases, parents want what is best for their children, and are expert in identifying when their child’s behaviour is not normal and may be due to ill-health.
    • Doctors should acknowledge parents’ understanding of their children, particularly where children’s age or disabilities make communication with them difficult.
  • You should explain that doctors have a professional duty to raise concerns if they think a child or young person is at risk of abuse or neglect, and make sure that parents are given information about the nature of concerns and how they will be investigated or acted upon, including if you are making a referral to local authority children’s services.
    • This information should be provided when concerns are first identified and throughout a family’s involvement in child protection procedures.
    • You must give parents opportunities to ask questions and keep them informed of progress, and be willing to answer their questions openly and honestly.
    • You should provide information about where they may find additional support and independent advice.
  • Being open and honest with families when concerns are raised about a child’s safety, and avoiding judgemental comments or allocating blame, can foster cooperation and help children and young people stay with their families in safety.
    • Most people do not intentionally harm children in their care. However, a small number of parents do deliberately harm their children, and are dishonest in their account of events or lifestyle.
    • You must listen carefully to parents, children and young people, explore inconsistent accounts and keep an open mind about the cause of a child’s injury or other sign that may indicate abuse or neglect.
    • You must be prepared to justify your assessment and decision.

The GMC also emphasises that confidentiality is not absolute and that sharing information is important in such cases.  However, consent for information sharing should ideally be sought prior to sharing.

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