Royal College outlines standards for child protection

All children’s social workers ought to have access to a paediatrician who can provide child protection advice and assessments, according to a new set of standards.

The 10 standards, set out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, outline reform to the way healthcare is delivered to children and young people in the UK. It follows Sir Ian Kennedy’s report earlier this year, which described children’s healthcare as a Cinderella service.

College president Professor Terence Stephenson said: “At this time of difficulty in many paediatric services, I am proud of the fact that paediatricians are laying down a marker and setting the standards by which all children and young people should be treated. I have no doubt that these standards will help improve the medical care of children.”

The standard concerning social care aims to ensure that children of 18 or younger who present with child protection concerns are suitably assessed within a reasonable timescale by a “competent” paediatrician, the report said.

The college said this service ought to be available 24/7, with an initial strategy discussion across agencies as soon as practicable and usually within two hours. Depending on need, the child must be assessed usually within 12 hours of presenting with recent injuries. The written medical document should be available within three days.

Specialist paediatric and forensic opinion should be available to all units within four hours for all acute sexual assaults and all unexplained child deaths. Paediatricians would be the single point of contact for children’s social care departments to articulate the concerns of medical professionals involved with the family.

They should also attend initial and review conferences whenever there is likely to be a discussion of the interpretation of medical views or findings, the report said.

The standards also address the timeliness of care, the grade of doctors that can review and discharge children, the availability of consultant input, and the minimum number of doctors required for safe rotas.

All of the standards have been approved by the college council.

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