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A faulty production line

‘I feel compromised without support’

Dr Ayesha Sharieff 

I am the designated safeguarding lead in our team and we’ve had huge problems. One of the issues is that no one is really sure who to contact. When you have a child in front of you who is on the child protection register, it is almost impossible to get hold of their social worker. Often, they’ve left the job or are off on stress-related leave – that may reflect the cases they have and the volume of work.

Social services give you a contact centre number, meaning you’re often left on hold for long periods before being told to fill in a five-page online form. Half the time that form crashes.

Yesterday, at least two cases of child safeguarding came out in the course of consultations. I knew that speaking to someone would require me to stay an extra hour at work, but I wouldn’t feel happy if I left without dealing with these cases.

Patients on the child protection register rarely come with a document or a letter when they move to the area. It is often only by being candid and inquisitive that we find out there are ongoing issues. The lack of health visitors is another major problem. When I’ve called my local authority about a patient without a health visitor, I’ve been told my patch is not covered but ‘don’t worry, you are in the queue’. Moreover, mothers are being told to weigh their own babies, yet often it’s through these regular checks that you find out someone is vulnerable or depressed.

Most of the time as a GP you just want a human conversation with another professional who has seen the patient, to collaborate and share ideas. Often we just want reassurance – that is what we are losing. We need these allied services. Without them, I feel compromised as a safeguarding lead.

Dr Ayesha Sharieff is a GP in south London 




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Readers' comments (6)

  • Azeem Majeed

    Thank you for your article, which has highlighted some very important issues.

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  • Why do you have to fill in a 5 page form? Your job is to raise concerns and share appropriate info. Social's job is the act on info and triangulate with other agencies.

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  • To provide support to GPS, NHSE started making localities, then federations, now hubs/clusters. same 100s of staff in these so called important time wasting organisations, I am sure if you ask CCG, they will create some GP Lead job who will guide other gps. but you have to attend his/her meetings by cancelling your clinic. you are right no body knows nothing but these people are still there and become famous for doing nothing on their jobs. not to forget there is a big money linked to their roles.
    You could have phoned the previous gp for paper work or for any immediate risks/concerns. What was the hurry to fill those forms asap? if children were ok between the time they left previous gp and joining your list, what can go wrong on this same day?
    Other human beings are not accountable to anything. Only gps have more to lose if anything goes wrong. Other human beings will find some other job.

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  • A five page online form that crashes half of the times? Wouldn't be my problem. One try and I am dictating a letter where I outline my concerns and ask them to put it on any form they like using this time of year or get on with the job. Having said that, I do have some sympathy for their position which is not so dissimilar to ours. Essentially, ever rising expectations and ever shrinking resources.

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  • How come your form is only 5 pages?
    Anyway, as safeguarding lead, you should know it is your responsibility to provide the funds to pay for the necessary number of health visitors, social workers, etc from GP funding.

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  • One of the great emerging themes of modern front line medicine is the gap between guidelines (sharp suites, courses, glossy brochures) and the gritty reality of the daily grind and the Friday pm unanswered call to social services. Most middle class voters are blissfully unaware until perhaps their elderly relative falls ill when they expect the earth. Only answer is to get out and join the shiny, happy guideline brigade.

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