Healthcare professionals urged to help children ‘suffering in silence’

Vulnerable children are ‘suffering in silence’ because healthcare professionals are failing to identify and protect them, the CQC has said.

The CQC’s new report, ‘Not seen, not heard’ says that staff in GP surgeries and hospitals and health visitors are not acting consistently enough to assess children’s risk of problems including parental ill health, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation.

The CQC interviewed 69 children and young people, 43 of whom said they didn’t feel involved in their care.

Professor Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, said: “The number of children identified as having been abused or exploited is just the tip of the iceberg – many more are suffering in silence. As new risks emerge and more children are identified as being in need, it is more crucial than ever that staff across health and social care, education, the police and justice system all work together.

“'Not seen, not heard' says the extent of problems such as exploitation, parental ill-health and sexual exploitation is still largely unknown and how well children are being protected from them, even less so. Most areas are not yet effectively identifying and protecting children at risk of hidden harms although inspectors did find that health professionals have improved the way they assess risk and recognise safeguarding concerns.”

The CQC said professionals must do more to involve children in their care, and to identify and prevent risks. For example, professionals dealing with an adult with mental health problems should assess the risk to children in the household.

It said different agencies should share information more effectively. For example, it inspected 50 A&E departments and found that 16 were failing to effectively communicate their concerns when they referred children to social services.

The regulator also called for access to mental health care for children to be a priority after finding that just five out of 38 local authorities inspected effectively used national tools to assess children’s wellbeing.

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