A medical watchdog has published new guidance to help doctors protect children from abuse and neglect.
The advice from the General Medical Council (GMC), which comes into effect today, is designed to give doctors confidence to act when they need to and makes clear where they can turn for support.
The guidance, Protecting Children And Young People: The Responsibilities Of All Doctors, was produced following a two-year working group chaired by senior family judge Lord Justice Thorpe after hearing evidence from a range of child protection experts.
The guidance makes clear that if doctors are treating an adult patient, they must consider whether the patient poses a risk to children or young people.
Doctors must be able to identify risk factors in a patient’s environment that might raise concerns about abuse or neglect.
They must also listen to parents and children, recognise parents’ understanding of their children and keep an open mind about the possible cause of an injury or other sign that may indicate abuse or neglect.
The GMC has also produced a short guide for parents to help them understand what they can expect from their doctor when child protection concerns are raised.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: “Child protection is a difficult area of practice, complicated by uncertainty and often very emotionally challenging.
“Parents and carers need to have full confidence that if there are any issues raised about the safety of their child, their doctor will take the right course of action.
“Part and parcel of this is making sure that doctors communicate properly with both parents and children to convey any concerns they may have.
“Our new guidance will help guide doctors toward making the correct decisions in this challenging but essential area of work.”