NEW guidance to help doctors protect children from abuse has been issued by the GMC.
Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors, is aimed at supporting doctors dealing with a wide range of complex child protection issues. The guidance makes clear the responsibilities of doctors in this area and advises where they can turn for support.
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 judgements in a charged atmosphere. The decisions made or not made as a result can have far reaching consequences.
"We are clear though that doctors must raise their concerns if they believe a child or young person may be at risk of abuse or neglect - and this applies whether or not the child is their patient. They also need to know who to contact for advice if they do have any concerns.
"Doctors who make child protection decisions based on the guidance will be able to justify their actions if a complaint is made against them - provided their conclusions are honestly held and have been pursued through the appropriate channels."
The guidance has been developed following concerns that some recent high-profile cases were deterring some doctors both from working in this area and from raising child protection concerns.
It states: "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."
MDDUS senior medical adviser Dr John Holden said: "We receive regular calls from members who seek advice on reporting suspicions when they feel confidentiality may be an issue.
"It is a sensitive and emotive subject and this guidance will help give doctors clarity and the confidence to act where there are signs of abuse.
"The child’s best interests must be the doctor’s first concern. The guidance reminds doctors to work in partnership with colleagues to keep children safe. MDDUS recommends that doctors seek advice from a senior colleague, a lead child protection liaison contact or medical defence organisation if in any doubt."
The full guidance which comes into effect on 3 September.