Health

Act on child abuse suspicions, doctors told

David Southall
Image caption The GMC has had to reinstate David Southall on its medical register

Any doctor who suspects child abuse must raise the alarm immediately and tell parents what action they will be taking, new draft guidance says.

Doctors acting reasonably in response to concerns about abuse or neglect will not be subject to censure, it adds.

The General Medical Council is holding a public consultation on the draft.

It follows a successful appeal against the GMC by a paediatrician struck off after accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her 10-year-old son.

The GMC had to reinstate David Southall on its medical register after the appeal court ruled it had failed to give adequate reasons for his striking off in 2007.

The case has now been sent back to the GMC panel for reconsideration.

Speaking about the new guidelines, the GMC's chief executive Niall Dickson said: "We recognise that taking action to protect children from abuse can be challenging and distressing for everyone involved.

"This is a complex area of practice, but we believe this new guidance will provide greater clarity about what doctors need to do to protect children, even if they are uncertain about the risks involved.

"We hope it will also help give doctors confidence to make these extremely difficult decisions."

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health child protection officer Dr Amanda Thomas said: "Spotting signs of child abuse and neglect is a complex and difficult field.

"This new guidance is fundamental for all medical staff to protect children and young people from harm."

The UK-wide guidance applies to all doctors, not just those working in child protection, and the final version should be published by the end of the year.

It says every doctor, even those working only with adults, should be able to spot signs a child could be at risk at an early stage, for example if a parent misuses drugs or alcohol.

It is hoped cases like that of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, or "Baby P", who died in August 2007 at home in Haringey, north London, after months of abuse can be avoided.

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