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Doctors trained in spotting abuse

BBC - 9th January 2006

Paediatricians are to be given training in recognising and dealing with suspected child abuse, after a string of high-profile failures.

The first UK-wide course is being brought in after cases where suspicions were not acted on early enough or where parents were wrongly prosecuted.

Such cases have led to reluctance among some doctors to report suspicions.

The government-funded project is to be rolled out to all doctors who are training in paediatrics.

Safeguarding Children - Recognition and Response in Child Protection will also be offered to GPs and doctors working with children in accident and emergency departments.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, children's charity the NSPCC and the Advanced Life Support Group teamed up to produce the course.

Until now, training in child protection has varied greatly across the country and has never been mandatory.

But now any trainee wanting to be a member of paediatricians' professional body, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, will have to take the course.

The college and the NSPCC said they hoped that eventually everyone studying paediatrics would attend the intensive one-day course backed up by a training pack, a DVD and two booklets.

'Crucial link'

NSPCC director of training and consultancy Enid Hendry said: "Deciding to report possible child abuse can be a very difficult judgement call but it could be the child's only chance of intervention."

President-elect of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Dr Patricia Hamilton said the course was designed to give junior doctors the confidence to assess possible cases of child abuse.

"Doctors are a crucial link in the child protection chain and we want to do everything possible to enable them to recognise and respond to possible cases of abuse appropriately."

She added: "We are really talking about the sorts of things a junior doctor might be confronted with, perhaps where a child is brought in with a bruise or a fracture and a story that doesn't quite fit."

Students will work through fictional case studies, although based on real-life examples, under the guidance of trained educators in child protection issues.

Sally Clark case

They will also get information on legal and social aspects of child abuse cases as well as a "mentor" whom they can consult when they need to look at cases in the real world.

Recently Sir David Hall, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, warned physicians were concerned that raising fears about child abuse cases could damage their careers.

The warning comes after high-profile cases where doctors were censured for the way they dealt with abuse concerns.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow was struck off by the General Medical Council last year after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct over evidence he gave in the trial of Sally Clark - who later overturned her double child-murder conviction.

Professor David Southall was also found guilty of serious professional misconduct for his role in the same case after he accused Mrs Clark's husband of murder.

But Dr Hamilton said: "We are more concerned about cases like Victoria Climbie and multi-agency working."

Victoria was murdered by her great-aunt and her partner, but a report into the case found the youngster was let down by failings and bureaucracy in several agencies.

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