GPs told to detain at-risk children

Doctors should detain children considered at risk of abuse until they have spoken to social services, the BMA has said.

Its new 'toolkit' on child protection says doctors who see at-risk children should inquire into all previous hospital admissions, and gain access to all relevant notes and records.

Hospital doctors should examine at-risk children within 24 hours of admission, and only discharge them after speaking with social services.

Dr Emma Cuzner, a MDU medico-legal adviser, said child protection could be difficult for GPs, because they have limited time with a child, and often care for the entire family.

'The public feel it's a simple thing and that if doctors don't act they are not doing their job properly. But children don't come in saying they have a bite mark, it's much less clear cut than that,' she said.

Dr Tony Calland, chair of the BMA's ethics committee, said that the key thing in such cases was to act 'immediately'.

'There is always a degree of risk. There is the danger of leaving a child too long, on the other the risk of removing a child unnecessarily from their family,' he said.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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