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A&E staff in England struggling to spot abuse cases in infants, says watchdog

Staff in hospital emergency departments in England are struggling to spot when infants are being physically abused by their parents, raising the risk of further harm, an investigation has found.

Clinicians often do not know what to do if they are concerned that a child’s injuries are not accidental because there is no guidance, according to a report from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) that identifies several barriers to child safeguarding in emergency departments.

Matt Mansbridge, a national investigator, said the report drew on case studies of three children who were abused by their parents, which he said were a “hard read” and a “stark reminder” of the importance of diagnosing non-accidental injuries quickly, since these are the warning sign in nearly a third of child protection cases for infants under the age of one.

“For staff, these situations are fraught with complexity and exacerbated by the extreme pressure currently felt in emergency departments across the country,” Mansbridge said. He said the clinicians interviewed wanted to “see improvement and feel empowered” to ask difficult questions.

“The evidence from our investigation echoes what staff and national leads told us – that emergency department staff should have access to all the relevant information about the child, their history and their level of risk, and that safeguarding support needs to be consistent and timely/ Gaps in information and long waits for advice will only create further barriers to care,” he said.

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Source: The Guardian, 13 April 2023


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