Family doctors in Brighton and Hove were urged to take child protection more seriously at a council meeting this afternoon.
Two councillors from different political parties asked how GPs could be encouraged to attend case conferences and to learn lessons from the death of two children.
Councillor Ruth Buckley, a Green member of Brighton and Hove City Council, said that doctors had the poorest attendance record at conferences called to discuss individual children at risk.
She also said that they made fewer referrals than any other professional group with responsibility for children’s health and welfare.
Of 4,259 referrals, just 93 were made by family doctors. Sussex Police made 1,184 referrals, schools made 639 and medical staff working in hospitals and community health made 509 referrals.
Alan Bedford, of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: “It is difficult to get GPs to attend because of their other time commitments.”
He said that changes to commissioning arrangements meant that GPs would take over much of the work of primary care trusts.
He added: “They may become more aware of the importance of this issue and their involvement may get better.”
Councillor Andrew Wealls, a Conservative member of the council, asked how GPs were being supported in learning from two child deaths which were investigated in 2010-11.
His question related to a paragraph in the local safeguarding board’s annual report which said: “Two serious incident requiring investigation (SIRI) into child deaths involved significant input from primary care practitioners and investigations identified recommendations for enhancing GP practice.”
Mr Bedford said: “There were fortunately very few issues and the two deaths weren’t down to failings by GPs in Brighton and Hove.”
His board’s report also said: “There has been an increase in the number of case consultations requests by GPs demonstrating a possible increased awareness of their safeguarding role.”
The exchanges came at a meeting of the Brighton and Hove Children and Young People’s Trust Board at Hove Town Hall.
Eleanor Davies, the parent representative, and a member of Brighton and Hove Parents Forum, asked whether parents were represented on the safeguarding board.
Mr Bedford said that, according to national guidance, the boards should have two lay members but most had not implemented this.
He said that this was down to practical difficulties in setting and implementing selection criteria.
He added that he was happy to look into the matter further.
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