More than 50 UK paediatricians have today accused the General Medical Council of deterring doctors from raising child protection concerns.
In an article in the American journal Pediatrics, they criticised the GMC’s actions in the cases of paediatricians David Southall and Sir Roy Meadow, who were disciplined over their involvement in the wrongful conviction of Sally Clark, the solicitor jailed for the murder of her baby sons in 1999.
Clark, who died two weeks ago, was released in January 2003 after the Court of Appeal quashed her conviction.
The paediatricians said the GMC’s actions “conflicted” with current child protection laws and guidance for professionals and “already might have contributed to the reduction in the willingness with which doctors raise child protection concerns”.
They wrote: “The views of the GMC [in the case of Southall] were contrary to current child protection guidance, which treats the child’s safety as paramount – that is, ‘the doctor is charged with the protection of the child, not with the protection of the parent’. We do not consider that the reporting of genuine concerns about the safety of a child to responsible authorities, within the confidentiality of established processes, brings the medical profession into disrepute, but the GMC did because it failed to understand the medical responsibilities in child protection.”
A GMC spokesperson said the paediatricians were “fuelling a perception that the GMC is somehow bent on persecuting doctors involved in child protection work.”
She added: “We agree that it cannot be in the public interest if doctors are inhibited from acting to protect children, or deterred from giving evidence honestly and truthfully, and within their competence. But equally it cannot be in the public interest, or in the profession’s interest, if the GMC is not free to act when doctors practise incompetently or inappropriately. We have only sought to protect the public interest from doctors who fall significantly short of accepted standards.”