Children’s charities are calling for a rewording of the Children
Act 1989, following a court case last week involving a family
doctor who failed to pass on details of a disclosure of sexual
The NSPCC and Barnardo’s want the act to spell out GPs’ child
protection responsibilities more clearly.
Currently, the Working Together child protection guidance
states that GPs should know when it is appropriate to act on
concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm through
abuse, while the British Medical Association simply advises that
each doctor should decide whether to report concerns on a case by
Tink Palmer, principal policy and practice officer at Barnardo’s,
warned that many GPs were not provided with “sufficiently
strongly-worded guidance” on how to deal with disclosures of abuse
in a family when they treated all members.
“This is still very much an issue for GPs who are often loath to
come forward with information because they feel it will ruin their
relationship with the whole family.”
An NSPCC spokesperson added that the law needed to be strengthened.
“What we want to see is GPs, along with police, included
specifically in the Children Act, rather than just Working
Together,” she said.
The High Court test case, brought by a woman against her former
doctor, related to abuse she suffered as a child in the 1970s. The
woman, now in her thirties, claimed that Andrew Cairns should have
contacted police or social services after her mother told him she
had been abused by her stepfather from the age of five.
But judge Stuart Brown QC ruled last week that Cairns, who had been
told by the woman’s mother to keep the disclosures “within these
walls”, had not breached his duty of care to the daughter.
“I am satisfied that his decision accorded with that likely to have
been reached by many responsible, caring colleagues,” Brown told