Confidentiality fears ‘lead doctors to minimise child protection role’

Child death inquiries that have criticised professionals have
left many paediatricians wanting to play a minimal role in child
abuse issues.

Dr Neela Shabde, paediatric consultant with Northumbria
Healthcare NHS Trust, told a child protection conference in London
last week that many of her colleagues were “scared stiff” of being
reported to the General Medical Council for breaking patient
confidentiality by passing on information about cases to a third
party. They were also unsure how to proceed with cases where they
could make no diagnosis, she said.

Shabde believed the reluctance of many of her colleagues to
intervene was “worrying and unacceptable”. She said: “I despair
when I hear my colleagues saying child protection is not to do with
me, it is for experts.”

She said that, nationally, child protection training for medical
staff varied from non-existent to excellent, and called for it to
be made mandatory for doctors of all grades.

Meanwhile, the director of nursing and lead director for
clinical governance review at the Commission for Health Improvement
has warned of confusion around child protection responsibilities in
the NHS.

Liz Fradd told the Association of Directors of Social
Services’ international conference in Belfast last week that
an audit of NHS organisations carried out after the Victoria
Climbié Report had exposed the lack of understanding about
“who is responsible for what and where”.

“There is complete confusion between strategic health
authorities and primary care trusts over where responsibilities
lie,” Fradd said. She said strategic health authorities had lobbied
ministers saying it had nothing to do with them.

Also speaking in Belfast, chief inspector of social services
Denise Platt said that all councils had returned on time the audits
of their children’s safety procedures carried out following
the publication of the Victoria Climbié Report.

She said they showed most councils had “promising prospects for
improving services”

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