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GPs 'ideally placed' to spot signs of child maltreatment

GPs are ‘ideally placed’ to spot the warning signs of child maltreatment and work with families to stop them getting worse, an RCGP report has said.

The report, jointly produced by the RCGP, NSPCC and researchers from UCL and the University of Surrey, calls on policymakers to ‘rethink’ the role of GPs to make the most of their opportunities for early intervention in cases of suspected child maltreatment.

It concludes that GPs, as a first and on-going point of contact for families, should take a ‘leading role’ in addressing the social and emotional issues relevant to health, including being given the autonomy to work with other front-line professionals to act on concerns of child neglect and emotional abuse

The RCGP has already worked with the NSPCC on a child safeguarding toolkit for GPs, which is due to be updated and released later this year. However, the children’s charity has warned that too many cases of child maltreatment are still not being detected or dealt with in community settings. They estimate that for every child subject to a protection plan, there are eight who go unprovided for in the community.

This could include offering advice to families about health issues that could affect their children, such as alcohol use, as well as ‘advocating for parents to help them find their way through the health and social care systems’.

The RCGP is currently campaigning to extend GP training from three to four years and for training to include an additional focus on child health and mental health.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said that while paediatric health is a priority for GPs, only half of trainees GPs in the UK have the opportunity to undertake specialist paediatric placements during their training, a situation she described as ‘unacceptable’.

Dr Baker said: ‘Today’s report strengthens our case, and we hope it will prove to be a turning point in how society approaches and cares for our children and young people and their families in the future.’

She added: ‘General practice itself is in a state of crisis with GPs heaving under the pressures of ballooning workloads and plummeting funding. We are calling on the four governments of the UK to ensure that general practice receives 11% of the NHS budget by 2017. This would allow us to recruit more GPs and offer more services and appointments for patients of all ages.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Bob Hodges

    Arrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!

    The next person that suggests I'm 'ideally placed' to do yet MORE WORK without mentioning more funding or identifying something that I DON'T have to do, will get my boot 'ideally placed' somewhere that might realign their 'Ideas, Concerns and Expections'.

    It's bad enough when its coming from some single-issue fool sitting on the breakfast telly sofa, but when it's your OWN ROYAL COLLEGE, the one that YOU pay £400 a year to be a member of, it's enough to vapourise your bladder contents.

    PLEASE STOP.

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  • More nonsense from the RCGP.
    They certainly are an embarrassment .

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  • Maureen Baker is an incompetent buffoon, why are they still acting as if the world of primary care remains unchanged.

    Their aims were laudable to look and strive for continual improvement. But in a world where we are under continual attack, our college should not be commissioning work where the conclusion will be - GP's can do more, better and for free!

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  • GPs should be discouraged to pay for membership of RCGP. @ 1:22 AM!! Your memberhsip feeds 'buffoons' and encourages them voice more stupid ideas.
    So why would you really want to be assicated with a College like that and pay for it in these difficult times. Vanity?

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  • I'd say the opposite is true and GPs are in fact quite poorly placed to spot signs of maltreatment. This is because GPs don't often have ongoing contact with troubled families who tend to make greater use of A+E and other parts of the NHS that has be fractured by covert privatization. Such families may become known to GPs but in the few 10 minute contacts we have we are woefully under-resourced to have much impact on safeguarding whilst abusers rapidly become adept at hiding their behaviour in the system. Other agencies like schools and health visitors have much more longitudinal exposure to a childs development but their resources have suffered from government cuts. The RCGP just looks like it is covering up the shocking patchiness of children's services by scapegoating GPs rather than addressing how policy-makers have neglected childrens needs for so long.

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  • anon @ 12.33 - I agree, and even when we report suspicions (after numerous phone calls trying to find the right person) we are given the 9th degree interrogation and told to fill out a 6 page referral document. - another 6 patinets not seen in "wasted" time.

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