Doctors criticsed for failing to attend child protection hearings


By Martin Graham

SCOTTISH GPs are putting the welfare of children at risk by failing to turn up to child protection case conferences.

Doctors are even offered £135 to cover the cost of a locum so they can attend the important case conferences, but often claim to be too busy.

Social workers say that doctors rarely attend the meetings, which they are not contractually obliged to attend.

Hilton Dawson is the chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, and believes that doctors’ involvement in the child protection process is crucial.

He said: “GPs should take an active part in child protection systems and attend child protection case conferences.

“The fact that many doctors do not attend when they are invited has been an issue of concern for long time.”

Hilton Dawson is a former social worker who became an MP in 1997.

He stood down from Parliament in 2005 and was appointed chief executive of the BASW in 2009.

Child protection case conferences are held when it is discovered that a child or young person is at risk of abuse or suffering from neglect.

Invited stakeholders include parents, social workers, teachers, health visitors and police, who meet to discuss the child’s welfare.

GPs have an important contribution to make because they will often know the whole family and have awareness of important background factors such as substance abuse issues or mental health problems.

Defending GPs actions, MP Dr Ian McKee said: “These meetings are often arranged at short notice and can take place on a Monday morning, one of the busiest surgery times.

“Doctors working in deprived areas would have to attend far more meetings than colleagues in more affluent areas. “

The Scottish Government issued new draft guidelines on child protection in June, and an ongoing consultation is due to run until September 17.