Do not delay in suspected child abuse

Recent high-profile abuse cases including that of Baby P have highlighted the importance for healthcare professionals of taking urgent action in suspected maltreatment of children.

RECENT high-profile abuse cases including that of Baby Peter have highlighted the importance for healthcare professionals of taking urgent action in suspected maltreatment of children.

Failing to take action when presented with clear signs of abuse or neglect can lead to potential GMC/GDC sanctions as well as disciplinary action. A paediatrician cited in the Baby P case recently had her contract terminated with Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as being suspended from practice by the GMC. The doctor is reported to have failed to fully examine the boy on presentation at the hospital because he was “miserable and cranky”. She is now suing her former employers for unfair dismissal.

Most cases of child abuse or neglect are perhaps not as obvious or extreme as those of Baby P and doctors are often hesitant to report suspicions for fear of breaching patient confidentiality. MDDUS has noticed that over recent years the threshold for disclosure in such cases with or without consent of parents or guardian has lowered. A number of members have faced criticism for not detecting and reporting suspected abuse.

MDDUS urges members to report suspicions to the appropriate authority (such as a local health trust or board) without delay. There are a number of resources available for doctors and dentists providing clarity in identifying potential abuse and making disclosure decisions. These include the BMA Child protection toolkit and Child protection and the dental team.

NICE has also developed guidance on When to suspect child maltreatment.

Please contact an MDDUS adviser if in any doubt on questions of disclosure in suspected child maltreatment.

ACTION Follow local child protection procedures if you suspect that a child might be at risk because of abuse or neglect. Do not delay in taking action in such cases.