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GP consortia to be handed key child protection role

By Nigel Praities

The Government has announced GP consortia will take on statutory responsibility for child protection from PCTs, as part of a major shake-up of paediatric services.

The announcement comes after a review into children's services in the NHS by Sir Ian Kennedy found the need for an urgent revamp, with general practices to be placed ‘at the hub' of paediatric care. The review was initiated in 2009 after the furore following the death of Baby Peter.

Sir Ian concluded that GPs often do not have the time or the right training to care for children and young people adequately and that these patients are frequently ‘low on the list of priorities'.

But he argued that GP practices or polysystems should be the ‘single point of access' for children's health, offering 24-hour access to healthcare and at the centre of an NHS network of services.

He also called for practices to have at least one professional who has specialised knowledge in the comprehensive care of children and young people and for QOF to specifically include incentives for practices to care for children.

‘Given that the majority of their patients are adults, caring for children and young people is low on most GPs' priorities. A&E has become the default option,' the report said.

‘There should be a single point of access to the NHS's services for children and young people. This should be through general practice or the hub of some form of polysystem.'

In response, the Department of Health published today a 40-page report into the future of children's healthcare services, saying that GPs will become the ‘point of contact' for children's health, with GP consortia commissioning new services for children.

It also reveals GP consortia will take on the responsibility for child safeguarding from PCTs, although it admits this is beyond the experience of most PBC groups.

'This will be an important new role for GP consortia and one which will go beyond the experience of most existing GP commissioning groups,' the DH report said.

'PCTs and SHAs have responsibilities for safeguarding set out in statute. We propose that these should pass to GP consortia and the NHS Commissioning Board, adapted as necessary to reflect the wider roles of those bodies.'

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘Sir Ian's review has also highlighted issues which will sadly be only too familiar to many families, young people and professionals.'

‘Some aspects of the previous system were simply not well designed to meet the needs of children and young people. Sir Ian poses some important challenges. We know that we can and should do better.'

GP consortia are to be handed statutory responsibility for child protection GP consortia are to be handed statutory responsibility for child protection

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