The safety of children is an “afterthought” of NHS reforms, paediatricians have warned. Many say they are not adequately trained and resources are “spread too thinly.”
A survey of child safeguarding leads by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has found concerns youngsters are being put at risk by the NHS.
The survey of 59 doctors found just 12 per cent thought the NHS reforms would improve safeguarding. Over 75 per cent claimed their contracted time for safeguarding was insufficient to do the job.
One doctor told the RCPCH they were expected to cover a child population of around 200,000 without any time allocated for safeguarding. Another said they had “no real grasp of their role” and “no specific training” to equip them to protect the most vulnerable children.
Another raised fears over the loss of managers saying: “Senior managers are changing quickly, and they do not have sufficient understanding of their, or our, responsibilities.”
On NHS reforms another added: “Safeguarding seems an afterthought at best in central reforms. We feel as if we have no voice and no choice.”
Now the RCPCH has called for urgent action to draw up national standards and for guidelines to make sure children don’t “fall through the gaps.”
It also wants the role of named and designated doctors for safeguarding to be kept separate and for better networks and sharing of information.
The survey was carried out with doctors known as ‘named or designated professionals’ in NHS providers and primary care trusts. They have specific responisbilities and expertise to lead on child safeguarding.
Dr Amanda Thomas, child protection officer at the college, said: “There are clearly serious concerns amongst doctors about the future of safeguarding – in particular about their ability to fulfil their duties due to lack of time, training and resources.
“In order to protect children, it is crucial that safeguarding is not seen as an afterthought, but instead a central part of our health service.”
She said doctors wanted to see the government’s forthcoming statutory guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, clarify “the responsibilities and accountabilities of agencies and professionals involved in the system. She also called for “the new safeguarding arrangements in the NHS [to be] communicated clearly and quickly” following clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board assumng statutory responsibilities for child safeguarding.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “There will be robust arrangements in place for safeguarding children in the reformed NHS. We have made this a priority in the operating framework, and we have worked with the Royal College and many others to make sure the framework is in place to ensure all agencies know their roles and responsibilities. This will inform new guidance which will be consulted on soon.”