In the wake of the Baby P case the BMA has just published its child protection toolkit which can be accessed here.
- It advises that doctors who have concerns that a child may be at risk of abuse or neglect:
- must enquire about any previous hospital admissions and gain access to all relevant records as soon as possible;
- must ensure that a child considered to be at risk is examined thoroughly within 24 hours of admission; and
- must not discharge the child unless a discussion has taken place with social services.
It is important to note that the relevant statute and case law covering situations outlined in the guidance which must be followed. For example, practitioners must bear in mind case law which supports the position that a child should only be detained by hospital staff if there is an immediate risk of violence to the child. Local authorities can apply to court for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) or alternatively the Police have powers to remove a child for up to 72 hours under the Children Act 1989 in emergency situations. Overall the message is that if clinicians have concerns about a child then they must act immediately in the best interests of the child. When faced with such situations where there may be disagreement from the parents or other carers staff should ensure that the thought processes are recorded in detail and if in doubt about how to proceed they should seek legal advice.
The Care Quality Commission has also now published its report into the failings of the four NHS trusts involved in the care of Baby P. Although the report recognises that the trusts have taken measures to improve child protection procedures it concludes that the following still need to be addressed:
- ensuring sufficient staffing levels;
- improving attendance of health staff at child case conferences; and
- addressing communication problems when making referrals.
The commission will publish a second report later in the year looking at child safeguarding arrangements for children across the whole of the NHS. The report can be accessed here.