A set of radical new proposals for the protection of children
cared for by the NHS in Wales was unveiled in response to
allegations made by former patients of a child and adolescent
mental health unit to the North Wales Child Abuse Inquiry,
writes Alex Dobson.
The Carlile Review, commissioned two years ago by the Welsh
Assembly, makes 150 recommendations aimed at safeguarding young
people, and protecting them from abuse whenever they come into
contact with health services.
The wide-ranging recommendations include a new all-Wales NHS
child protection organisation, two new charters for children, a new
director of children’s healthcare services, and medical access to
child protection registers. The report also says there is an urgent
need to review the adequacy of therapeutic services in the
principality for those who have suffered abuse.
The report warns that shortages of staff could increase the
vulnerability of children to abuse.
“There are numerous reasons why children may be vulnerable to
abuse within the NHS including staff shortages, shortage of
facilities, and poor employment practice,” it says.
Within 12 months, there should be a set of Welsh national child
protection documents that contain standards and protocols for every
NHS setting, and clear lines of communication between designated
liaison officers in each health organisation and the Children’s
Commissioner for Wales, the report says.
The review, chaired by Lord Carlile QC, also recommends the
setting up of a system of children’s advocates, as well as
complaints officers in each NHS trust. There would also be new
safeguards for whistleblowers.
The All-Wales NHS child protection service would be accountable
to the Welsh Assembly, and would be expected to prepare an annual
report on child protection.
On access to records, the report says: “We recommend that NHS
Direct Wales should be enabled to gain access to local authority
child protection registers. Subject to secure password safeguards,
accident and emergency outpatient and minor injury units staff
should be able to gain access to local authority child protection
registers, and social protection registers and social services
should, on reasonable request, be given access to the relevant
parts of a child’s health records provided that disclosure is for
the protection of the child’s physical or mental health.”
Speaking at the launch of the review, health and social services
minister for Wales Jane Hutt said: “[The report] recognises the
need to ensure that everyone who has contact with children and
their treatment, from non-executive directors to doctors, nurses
and practice receptionists are aware of the rights of the child and
is alert to the possibility of abuse.”