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Feature Child Protection

After Baby P: can GPs follow child protection guidance?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 02 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d707
  1. Sue Learner, freelance journalist

In the aftermath of high profile cases of maltreatment, general practitioners in the UK have been swamped with guidance on improving child protection. But some are finding it a challenge to keep up, reports Sue Learner

General practitioners are often the first professionals to come into contact with children at risk. So it was inevitable, following the high profile deaths of Victoria Climbié and Baby P, that GPs in the UK were bombarded by a series of measures and guidelines designed to improve child protection.

However some of these guidelines have been controversial, with social workers complaining that some GPs are failing to follow them and GPs claiming that some of the guidance is just impractical and was never even workable in the first place.

The abuse and murder of Victoria Climbié by her guardians 10 years ago led to an independent inquiry and a radical rethink of the child protection system.

Eight years later, there was the high profile case of Baby P, now known as Baby Peter. Baby P had been on the child protection register and was visited 60 times over the last eight months of his life by social workers, health visitors, doctors, and nurses. His death triggered another independent review and yet more guidance.

In 2006, the national interagency guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children was issued, closely followed in 2007, by the General Medical Council’s (GMC) “0-18 years guidance for doctors on child protection.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in partnership with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) produced a toolkit for GPs on “Safeguarding Children and Young People” in 2008, and a year later NICE produced guidance on When to Suspect Child Maltreatment.

It has been over a year since the BMA issued its 60-page …

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