Official Partner The Royal Society of Medicine



Doctors are encouraged to consider the effects of their actions, and the actions of their patients and colleagues, on vulnerable children and young adults – regardless of whether they are their patients. The situation of a vulnerable young person may be seen through surgery consultations, A&E admissions, or school and home visits.

Things to Consider

The GMC has guidance specific to the under-18s, highlighting the need for doctors to be aware of

In addition to the above, two sections in 1989’s The Children Act, make the following provisions:


The GMC recommends that a doctor who is concerned about an at-risk child should

Doctors should gain valid consent before sharing information, unless the act of doing so is likely to increase the risk of harm to the child, or the disclosure of information is in the public interest. Matters of public interest include harm to the child in question, harm to a third party, or any other serious crime.

There is also an expectation that doctors should follow up on their concerns if they have not been appropriately acted on. This could involve escalating the issue yet further.

Doctors must also be able to justify their decision to not share a concern, or to escalate. All justifications should be recorded in the medical record.

Serious Case Reviews

SCRs are established to find out why a child was seriously harmed, and how to improve the systems and services available to children and families.

Child Death Review

The process of implementing a CDR became mandatory in 2008. CDRs are reviews which attempt to unearth why children die, and try to prevent further deaths. The deaths are reviewed by a rapid response team, and the Child Death Overview Panel. When a child dies, all healthcare services must notify the Care Quality Commission.

Working with Others

The responsibility for safeguarding children lies with all those who are dealing with them. The sharing of information between responsible parties – such as children’s services and the police – can ensure children get all the help they need.

Being Unsure

Given the importance of small pieces of information, it is vital that all concerns are raised. However, those who are unsure about whether to share information or not should seek advice from senior colleagues, a child protection-designated doctor, or their professional protection organisation. Even if raised concerns eventually turn out to be unfounded, as long as a doctor has acted on the basis of reasonable belief and can justify their actions.


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