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BASW: New guidance will give doctors more confidence to report abuse

The General Medical Council’s (GMC) pledge to back doctors who report suspected child abuse, even if their fears are later proved groundless, has been endorsed by BASW.

The guidance, which will come into effect on 3 September, emphasises the importance of doctors having the confidence to act without fear of consequences should they be mistaken. The guidance states: “It is vital that all doctors have the confidence to act if they believe that a child or young person may be being abused or neglected. Taking action will be justified, even if it turns out that the child or young person is not at risk of, or suffering, abuse or neglect, as long as the concerns are honestly held and reasonable, and the doctor takes action through appropriate channels.”

The GMC’s move is aimed at emboldening doctors against vexatious complaints, provided they follow the revised guidance.

Commenting on the guidance, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “BASW has taken an active interest in the formulation of these new standards including giving both oral and written evidence during the consultation period.

“We absolutely endorse the need for doctors to be proactive in reporting their concerns about a child’s welfare. They are a key professional group that comes into daily contact with children and families, and so their contribution can be vital in both spotting signs of abuse and helping to protect children.

“We note that some have cited fears of litigation as a deterrent to doctors acting on their suspicions of child abuse; we are therefore reassured that the new guidance will give doctors confidence that sanctions will not be imposed even if doctors suspicions are found to be groundless.

“Countless public inquiries and serious case reviews have told us that it is good multi-agency working that keeps children safe; therefore, the duty to protect children needs to be unequivocal for those working in health, education and social care.”