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Truant reports 'will drive wedge in doctor-patient relationships'

GPs have accused education authorities of threatening the doctor-patient relationship in their efforts to crack down on school truants.

The row broke out after GPs in South Yorkshire were asked by councils to provide medical reports on children to establish whether absences from school were justified.

But GPs are not be paid for the work and the forms ask only for parental consent, despite GMC guidance stating children under 16 are capable of giving informed consent.

Sheffield LMC has told GPs not to give opinions in such cases amid fears doctors would have to give evidence in court against parents who were prosecuted for their child's truancy.

It has also warned Sheffield city council attendance and inclusion unit GPs can refuse to give the information or request a fee as the work is not a terms-of-service requirement.

But the unit retorted that it would ask parents to ask for the reports directly if GPs refused its requests.

Sheffield LMC secretary Dr John Russell said if GPs gave opinions in truancy cases it could damage their relationships with parents. 'It's not up to us to police attendance at school,' he added.

'If the parents are taken to court and prosecuted, and the GP has expressed an opinion, they may be called to court. That would prejudice the

relationship we have with

parents.'

Diane Dewick, manager of Sheffield's attendance and inclusion unit, said the council risked legal action by parents or pupils if they failed to enforce school attendance.

Bradford LMC secretary Dr John Givans said GPs faced 'blackmail activity' by parents when they requested the reports. He added: 'They say if

you don't sign this I'll go to jail.'

All third-party requests for reports should be in writing, with patient consent, and a

fee should be offered, he said.

Dr David Shoesmith, a GP in Bradford, refused a request for a report on an alleged truant. 'Some children seem to be required to have notes from their doctor for every period of absence,' he said.

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