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GPs attack plan to raid PCO funds for child protection

GPs have attacked Government legislation that proposes using primary care organisation cash to pay for new child protection measures.

The Children's Bill states that PCOs and other bodies, including local councils, should pool some of their budgets into new Children's Trusts to pay for co-ordinated action.

The money could be used to set up children's centres involving health, social care and teaching professionals as well as for measures to improve information sharing.

The Bill will establish local safeguarding boards to ensure GPs and other NHS organisations link up with education and social services. Local agencies, including GPs and PCOs, will also have a statutory duty to improve child welfare.

Children's minister Margaret Hodge attacked GPs last month for 'refusing to co-operate' with efforts to improve sharing of information to protect vulnerable children.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said taking cash from PCOs will put an unnecessary burden on already overstretched primary care budgets.

'This is not a primary care issue. The money should be coming from elsewhere,' he said. 'PCOs are not exactly cash-rich and I get very nervous by joint funding, I don't think it works.'

Dr Buckman said the Bill did not address GPs' concerns that they are unable to attend child protection case conferences and seminars because they can't afford locum cover.

Dr Rob Barnett, Liverpool LMC secretary, said there was no 'slack' in PCO funding to put into children's trusts. 'In principle addressing the breakdown in communication between health and social care is long overdue but in practice this can't work unless we have more funds made available,' he argued.

GPs who backed the Government plans said pooling funds was the best way to ensure organisations worked together.

Dr Anna Wilson, a GP in Winchester, said attempts to set up child protection 'centres of excellence' in Hampshire were being thwarted because no organisation would take responsibility for funding.

'If there was a joint fund there wouldn't be an issue that paying for this is someone else's responsibility,' she said.

By Joe Lepper

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