GMC launches new child protection guidance for doctors

Guidance sets out how doctors must communicate effectively with social workers and other professionals if they have concerns about a child.

Doctors will need to consider whether their adult patients’ health issues put children at risk of abuse or neglect, under guidance issued by the General Medical Council today.

The GMC’s Protecting Children and Young People guidance sets out how the UK’s 230,000 doctors should handle child protection concerns and clarifies their duties and expectations when children and young people are in danger.

It calls on doctors to raise their child protection concerns without delay and consider how adult mental health, substance misuse, poverty or domestic violence could affect children in a family.

Doctors will be expected to communicate effectively and work with social workers and other professionals and must cooperate fully with child protection procedures.

It also sets out how doctors should handle information sharing, child protection examinations and says they must know who is the named child protection professional they should consult about their concerns.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Doctors must raise their concerns if they believe a child or young person may be at risk of abuse or neglect – and this applies whether or not the child is their patient.

“They also need to know who to contact for advice if they do have concerns.”

The guidance also says doctors who believe they should not raise a child protection concern with local authority children’s services must only do so if they believe not sharing that information is in the child’s best interests.

However if they do not share such concerns, doctors must keep in contact with the child and regularly review their decision to delay or withhold that information.

Dr Amanda Thomas, child protection officer at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the guidance provides a valuable framework for doctors.

“What’s crucial now is that the guidance is embedded into practice and the partnership working it promotes across the healthcare profession becomes reality,” she said.

The guidance comes into effect on 3 September.

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