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More face-to-face GP consultations are needed to tackle child abuse, new report says

More face-to-face GP consultations are needed to tackle child abuse after study showed NHS staff failed to investigate signs in 70 per cent of cases – with the problem partly attributed to seeing patients remotely

  • The CSJ think-tank says a child abuse crisis is being driven by remote GP calls
  • The report calls for GP appointments to return to in-person GP appointments
  • Researchers say 70 per cent of the most serious child abuse cases was not investigated

The reduction in face-to-face GP consultations is contributing to a child abuse crisis, experts have warned.

Researchers at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank discovered domestic abuse had been an underlying factor in 37 of the 46 most serious cases of child abuse last year.

NHS staff had failed to investigate signs of domestic abuse in 70 per cent of those 37 cases, the study found, with the problem partly attributed to seeing patients remotely rather than in person.

Ms Odone said GPs ‘see their patients regularly and are perfectly placed to spot the early signs of abuse 

Calling for GPs to change their approach, and for better training on how to spot signs of domestic abuse, Cristina Odone, Head of Family at the CSJ, said: ‘Face-to-face GP consultations allow for much more thorough identification of serious physical and mental issues that are much easier to hide on Zoom or over the telephone.

If the Government is serious about tackling the epidemic of domestic abuse, then face-to-face GP consultations are an essential part of its armoury.’

Failures in child protection were laid bare last year when Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes were jailed over the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. The six-year-old had been starved and poisoned with salt before dying as a result of ‘systematic brutality’.

In a separate case, Savannah Brockhill was convicted of murdering Star Hobson, the 16-month-old daughter of her ex-girlfriend Frankie Smith.

Ms Odone said GPs ‘see their patients regularly and are perfectly placed to spot the early signs of abuse, but unless we take action to boost their training, tragic cases like Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson will continue to be missed’.

The report, to be published this week, identifies a reluctance of GPs to ask tough questions about patients’ family lives. A YouGov poll of NHS staff who deal with patients found only half had received what they considered adequate guidance to deal with domestic violence and mental coercion.

Professor Gene Feder, from the Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: ‘It’s not that GPs don’t see domestic abuse, it’s that they don’t know what to do with disclosures.’

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