Family doctors should be on the lookout for signs of radicalisation, trafficking or cyber-bullying in child patients, according to the professional body for GPs.
The Royal College of GPs and children’s charity the NSPCC have launched a “toolkit” of advice for doctors to help them identify issues, which also include female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
With doctors said to be on the “front line”, the RCGP said it was issuing the guidance, taking in advice from police, social workers, schools and government agencies, so they were better informed about what to do if they had concerns for a child.
RCGP chairman Maureen Baker said children were faced with “unprecedented pressures” as a result of the internet, which leaves them vulnerable to trolling, “sexting” and revenge porn.
“As GPs we are trained to treat the ‘whole person’ and that means now taking into account a number of societal, as well as health, factors,” she said.
“A consultation with a GP may be the only time that young people can be alone with a trusted adult and we have a number of roles to play in providing understanding, compassion and support.”
According to latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, 43,140 children were subject to a child protection plan and 68,110 children were ‘looked after’ in England in 2013.
Dawn Hodson, the NSPCC’s neglect development manager said: “GPs play a very significant role in keeping children safe, previous NSPCC research found that for every child subject to a child protection plan or on a child protection register, we estimate that another eight have suffered maltreatment.”