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GPs set for tougher scrutiny over child protection role

By Nigel Praities

GPs face a crackdown over their child protection role in the wake of the Baby P case, with a series of PCTs targeting poor GP attendance at child case conferences.

Trusts are reviewing child protection procedures after a Serious Case Review found failures in communication between health professionals in the Baby P case and recommended a stronger role for GPs in monitoring at-risk children.

But managers have been accused of ‘merely ticking boxes' after developing plans to strong-arm GPs to attend case conferences and make child protection training a contractual requirement.

NHS Berkshire West is conducting an audit into the contributions of GPs to child case conferences after initial reports indicated they ‘did not regularly attend', and is looking at making child protection training a contractual requirement.

A report prepared for NHS Hounslow found GPs were rarely able to attend child case conferences and provide information about the risks to a child.

‘We are concerned the number of reports submitted by GPs to case conferences has dropped significantly,' it said.

'The named doctor will be contacting all practices to reiterate the importance and significance of their information and their responsibility to provide such information.'

NHS Bolton and NHS Wiltshire also have reviewed their child protection procedures and are concerned over GP training and attendance at child case conferences.

Dr Janice Allister, GP in Stockport and secretary of the Primary Care Child Safeguarding Forum, said PCTs were just going through the motions rather than engaging with GPs.

‘PCTs want to show that they are doing their best because they don't want to go through the nightmare Haringey is going through. But they are only beginning to wake up to this.

‘My fear is they will have a GP with a special interest who will have to go around chivvying everyone along and doing all the odd bits just to tick their box,' she said.

Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, said GPs were often unable to attend as meetings were often scheduled at short notice or at times that make it impossible for them to attend.

‘My advice is that GPs should contribute to the meeting by writing a report on what they might have said if they had been there,' he said.

Fall-out of Baby P

Aug 2008: Baby P dies in Haringey

Nov 2008: Serious Case Review into Baby P finds several major failings in the medical and social care of Baby P

Dec 2008: Health Secretary Alan Johnson asks Healthcare Commission to carry out a review of every NHS trust in England to ensure they are meeting safeguarding children obligations

Jan 2009: Delayed draft NICE guidance on child protection is finally published, but are criticised as impractical for GPs

Feb 2009: GP who saw Baby P suspended for 18 months by GMC

Jan/Feb 09: PCTs publish results of reviews of child protection procedures

GPs face tougher scrutiny over their child protection role

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