Doctors and nurses will be given guidance to help them recognise children who are at risk of physical or sexual abuse, it has been announced.

The guidance will also help GPs and health workers identify children who are suffering from emotional abuse or neglect.

One in 10 children is abused in some way by their carers, according to experts at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Health workers have been urged to “observe” a child’s appearance and behaviour and look out for any physical signs of abuse.

If a health worker suspects possible maltreatment they should seek an explanation from the child in an open and sensitive way and consult an expert such as a community paediatrician.

Health workers should also try to gather information from other agencies and the child should be seen again at some point in the future. However, if there is compelling evidence that strongly suggests that a child is being abused, they should be immediately referred to social services.