Government updates national child protection guidance

GPs already play a vital role in identifying children at risk and should know how to respond if they suspect abuse is taking place, in accordance with local and national guidelines.

Now the Government has updated and strengthened its statutory child protection guidance, which is aimed at all professionals who come into contact with children.

The 2018 version of Working Together to Safeguard Children requires closer partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities and the police, who will be jointly responsible for setting out local plans to protect children from abuse and neglect.

This new statutory guidance focuses on core legal requirements and should be read alongside a statutory framework which sets out the legislation relevant to child safeguarding and guidance covering the transition to the new multi-agency arrangements which must be in place by 29 September 2019.

At the same time, the Government has updated its non-statutory advice on information sharing in safeguarding cases to reflect the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.

We have summarised the relevant points below, although a doctor's ethical and legal duty to act on safeguarding concerns has not changed. The MDU has also produced general child protection advice.

Working Together to Safeguard Children, July 2018

  • All GP practices should have a lead and deputy lead for safeguarding, who should work closely with a named GP in the CCG.
  • Within all providers of NHS-funded health services, there should be a dedicated named doctor and a named nurse (and a named midwife if the organisation or agency provides maternity services) for safeguarding children. Their role is to provide advice and expertise for colleagues, and ensuring safeguarding training is in place.
  • All staff working in healthcare settings – including those who predominantly treat adults – are expected to receive safeguarding training so that they attain the competences appropriate to their role and follow the relevant professional guidance. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends that all healthcare professionals should have basic child protection training (level 1) and that those in regular contact with children should have standard child protection training (level 2 and above).
  • CCGs are responsible for the provision of effective clinical, professional and strategic leadership for child safeguarding, including quality assurance.
  • CCGs should employ, or have in place, a contractual agreement to secure the expertise of designated doctors and nurses for safeguarding children, for looked-after children and a designated doctor for unexpected deaths in childhood.
  • Police, CCGs and local authorities are to become local safeguarding partners, with joint responsibility for setting up effective safeguarding arrangements and multi-agency cooperation in their area. These arrangements, which must be published, will replace Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB).
  • Local authorities and CCGs are to become child death review partners, with responsibility for reviewing the deaths of children in the area (instead of children's services). Any multi-agency panel (or structure in place to review deaths) should include a designated doctor for child deaths and local GPs may be asked to contribute.
  • A new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel with powers to commission and publish national reviews of serious child safeguarding cases which they consider are complex or of national importance. Local authorities have a statutory duty to notify the Panel of incidents where they know or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected and the child has died or been seriously harmed.
  • Requirements for schools, sports clubs and religious organisations to cooperate with local safeguarding arrangements.
  • Each NHS England region should have a safeguarding lead to ensure regional collaboration and assurance through convening safeguarding forums.

Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers, July 2018

  • Practitioners can lawfully share information if it is to keep a child or individual at risk safe from neglect or physical, emotional or mental harm, or if it is protecting their physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Data Protection Act 2018 and human rights law are not barriers to justified information sharing.
  • Be open and honest with the individual (and/or their family where appropriate) about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and usually seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so.
  • You can legally share information without consent, if you are unable to or cannot be reasonably expected to gain consent from the individual, or if to gain consent could place a child at risk.
  • Seek advice from other practitioners, or your information governance lead, if you are in any doubt about sharing information, if possible without identifying the individual concerned.
  • Make sure the information you share is necessary for the purpose, is shared only with those individuals who need to have it, is accurate and up to date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely.
  • Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.
  • The guidance includes a flowchart of when and how to share information and dispels some myths which might hinder effective information sharing.

This page was correct at publication on 03/08/2018. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.