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GP refuses to join in smoking ban

GPs will be expected to record their concerns about children they suspect are being abused on a new national database containing details of everyone under the age of 18.

Under Government plans put out to consultation last week, GPs could register their worries without having to gain the consent of either parents or children.

The database is intended to enable social services to pick up 'flags of concern' raised by GPs, teachers and other professionals who come in contact with children and deal with problems more quickly.

The proposals by the Department for Education and Skills have split GPs. Some believed the database would be an important tool that would help protect children.

Others claimed it would destroy the doctor-patient relatonship and it was not GPs' job to 'spy on families'.

Dr Anna Wilson, GP representative on the Hampshire Area Child Protection Committee, said having a database was a 'useful safety net'.

'It's important that all children should be on the register and that GPs' concerns should be flagged up. You need this information to assess a child's needs.'

Dr Rob Barnett, a GPC member who has represented Liverpool LMC on child protection issues added: 'The current system isn't working. It's only when you can talk to all the people involved with a child that the true picture emerges.'

But GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden criticised the proposals. He said GPs already raised their concerns with social services. 'It's not our job to spy on families. This is a cynical move by ministers who haven't got enough social workers and want to shift the blame elsewhere.'

The database would record the name and contact details of the 'practitioner' who raised the concern. It would be up to social services or other professionals to contact any GP who might have flagged possible problems to discuss the issues.

By Jack Shamash

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