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Protecting children and young people: The responsibilities of all doctors

All children and young people are entitled to protection from abuse and neglect. Good Medical Practice places a duty on all doctors to protect and promote the health and well-being of children and young people. This means all doctors must act on any concerns they have about the safety or welfare of a child or young person.

Child protection is a difficult area of practice that can involve making decisions that are emotionally challenging, complicated by uncertainty and sometimes go against the wishes of parents. Doctors should work with parents and families, where possible, to make sure that children and young people receive the care and support they need. But in cases where the interests and wishes of parents may put the safety of the child or young person at risk, doctors must put the interests of the child or young person first. Failure to act when a child or young person is at risk can have serious consequences for both the child and their family.This guidance aims to help doctors to protect children and young people who are living with their families or living away from home, including those being looked after by a local authority.

In this guidance ‘abuse or neglect’ means physical, emotional or sexual abuse, including fabricated or induced illness, and emotional or physical neglect, which has led, or may lead, to significant harm to a child or young person.