GP leaders have blamed a lack of child protection training on the shortness of the specialist training programme for family doctors.
In a report on NHS safeguarding standards – commissioned by the government following the baby Peter case – the Care Quality Commission found just 35% of GPs had been appropriately trained in safeguarding – the lowest proportion of all healthcare professionals.
The Royal College of GPs said the specialist training programme for family doctors, which follows a five-year medical degree and a two-year foundation programme, needed to be extended from three to five years.
Its chair, Professor Steve Field, said not all GPs had time during their training to have placements in paediatric settings.
“I’m very concerned that the training is too short in only being three years long,” he said. “We’re pushing the Department of Health to extend the training to five years so all GPs can gain experience in working with children.”
He added that continuing professional development courses in protecting children from abuse were often of poor quality.
Field said the Royal College of GPs was working with Dr Sheila Shribman, national clinical director for children at the Department of Health, to increase placements in paediatric settings for trainees and will produce its own safeguarding materials for qualified GPs later this year.
The CQC’s report into NHS arrangements for safeguarding children in England, published last week, highlighted a “worrying” lack of compliance in safeguarding training across the health service.
It recommended that all trusts conduct urgent reviews of their safeguarding training.
A significant number of child health specialists lacked sufficient training in safeguarding. The CQC found that in acute trusts, only 65% of paediatric in-patient, day case or out-patient staff in acute and community services were up to date.
Dr Rosalyn Proops, child protection officer at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said ensuring staff were well-trained was a low priority for some NHS trusts and primary care trusts. “There is also a problem with resources, with too few people given sufficient time to develop and provide the training.”