Working in private practice puts you in the unique position of spending an extended period of time with children and a person with parental responsibility or simply parents or grandparents. Safeguarding the welfare of adults or children is not something that you can dismiss as the responsibility of GPs, social services, or teachers.
Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.
As you read media reports about the high profile cases of child abuse you will notice how often the child has had contact with numerous professionals but no-one took the appropriate action for that child to reach safety. There is often poor communication between professionals and follow-up on concerns.
As a practitioner it is important that you can recognise signs of neglect or abuse. You should know the approach to take to address concerns about safeguarding for both children and adults. If you have concerns you should know who to contact. Safeguarding issues are different for children and adults and the pathways you need to take are also different.
Children may be subject to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and neglect. Physical abuse often leaves recognisable physical signs which you may observe in clinic. As you listen to the interaction between the parent and child you may become aware of emotional abuse. There may also be physical signs of neglect. In the clinic setting you may also be exposed to cases of fabricated or induced illness. A consultation with a parent or grandparent may cause you to have concerns about a child’s safety.
If you are concerned about the safety of a child you need to consider consent and confidentiality but don’t let these cause delay in helping a child. Every area has a Local Safeguarding Children Board who will give you advice on local procedures for reporting concerns. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with contact numbers and procedures before an issue arises.
Adults may be subject to physical, sexual, psychological, financial or discriminatory abuse and neglect. In clinic you may observe physical signs that raise concerns about abuse. Patients also may disclose information that leads you to suspect abuse. For adults, any action taken on their behalf should be taken with their full and informed consent. Confidentiality and information sharing must be carefully considered and advice taken if you feel you must act without consent.
There will be a Local Vulnerable Adult’s Service in your area. You should find out their contact details and procedures so you are prepared should any concern arise.
Safeguarding is your responsibility
As a healthcare practitioner safeguarding is your responsibility. You must be able to act on your concerns and follow-up those concerns to make sure that action is taken. There could be a situation arise in clinic where you think a practitioner may be abusing a child or vulnerable adult, you need to know how to act. It is important that you and your staff are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to act appropriately regarding safeguarding concerns.
If this is an area where you need further development purchase the Mint Safeguarding module from the website for more in-depth information on this important subject.
Deborah has a Masters in Child Health and researched and wrote a child protection policy for osteopaths for which she received distinction. This information formed the basis for writing the safeguarding module.