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Inaccurate reporting of child physical abuse by healthcare staff

orkload pressures, red tape and hierarchy, reporting procedures and lack of sensitivity and support from social services and colleagues. Some Dentists felt that child abuse was not relevant to their profession and another burden in an already stressful occupation.

"I understand the child's welfare is paramount, but living in small communities it is difficult for social services to be seen to be sensitive or impartial" said one Community Nurse.

And a Doctor expressed frustration with colleagues. "In one case of suspected neglect/abuse it was reported several times and nothing was done. I eventually reported it to an on-duty social worker who dealt with it, but there was a time lapse of 12-18 months."

The majority of participants wanted multidisciplinary workshops, in-service education and accessible training tools. They also highlighted perceived deficiencies in the education they had already received.

"There is no more time for complacency" said one Doctor. "To do this we need knowledge and input from a wide range of professionals and agencies, all of whom should be communicating, working in partnership and educated at all levels with a multi-professional / agency framework. This should be mandatory and frequent."

"The findings suggest that recognising child physical abuse is both a complex and difficult task for primary healthcare professionals and illustrates a substantial gap between their ability to recognise maltreatment and knowledge of the pathways for reporting it" concludes Dr Lazenbatt.

"Although the consequences of failing to identify child physical abuse can be catastrophic, it is also essential that professionals are educated to recognise conditions that might inadvertently be mistaken as abuse so that unnecessary distress can be avoided.

"Child abuse is an important global problem and primary healthcare professionals can play an essential role in recognising and reporting
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