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Help for nurses dealing with harmful behaviour in children

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Fresh guidance has been launched to help nurses recognise and appropriately respond to harmful sexual behaviour in children.

Commissioned by Health Education England, the resources have been developed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) charity.

“Service provision across the UK remains patchy”

Ian Tegerdine

Studies shows around one third of sexual abuse against children is carried out by other young people.

The tools help health professionals identify what healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviours are, as well as what kind of attention and response should be given.

Pat Branigan, NSPCC development and impact manager, said: “Sadly harmful sexual behaviour is not rare, making it really important that those who come into contact with children, young people and their carers are able to respond appropriately.

“Our research in this area highlighted that whilst health professionals can identify harmful sexual behaviour, they often do not know what to do next,” he said

“We have developed these resources to help them distinguish normal sexual behaviours from those that may be inappropriate, problematic or harmful and make sure children get the appropriate support,” Mr Branigan added. 

Staff at St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group supported the development of the resources by sharing their experiences of responding to these sorts of incidents.

“Sadly harmful sexual behaviour is not rare”

Pat Branigan

Professor Sarah O’Brien, strategic director for people’s services and clinical accountable officer at the CCG, said: “It is essential that healthcare professionals understand and have confidence in responding to harmful sexual behaviour and we are very pleased to have supported the NSPCC with their work in this area.”

The National Workforce Skills Development Unit, which is commissioned by HEE to help meet the workforce challenges in healthcare, worked alongside NSPCC on the project.

Ian Tegerdine, associate director of the group, said: “Service provision across the UK remains patchy and working with children who display harmful sexual behaviour can be challenging for NHS staff.

“Health professionals need to be supported to respond to incidents of harmful sexual behaviour, and we hope these resources will make a real difference,” he added. 

The resources, which involve step by step guides and filmed interviews with health professionals, are available on the NSPCC learning website.

The tools are aimed at GPs, family planning teams, children’s mental health practitioners, practice nurses, school nurses, health visitors and youth offending and sexual health teams.

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