NHS failing to learn from Baby P

By Liz Stephens

The NHS needs to do more to protect children from neglect and abuse according to a report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) out today.

Following a national review of NHS child safeguarding, commissioned by the health secretary in the wake of the Baby P case, it has been revealed that several NHS Trusts are still failing to comply with the improvements recommended.

The review highlights worrying shortfalls in the number of NHS staff who are up to date with mandatory child protection training across all areas of the service.

On average, only about half of all eligible healthcare staff in each NHS trust are recorded as having up-to-date basic training.

This includes only 65 per cent of paediatric inpatient, day case or outpatient staff.

Some NHS trusts lack policies in key areas of child protection – for example, a third of acute trusts had no follow up process for children who miss outpatient appointments.

And more one in ten trusts were not complying with the statutory requirement to carry out Criminal Records Bureau checks for all staff employed since 2002.

Perhaps most worryingly, 29 out of 152 primary care trusts (PCT) reported case loads of more than 500 children per health visitor, well above Lord Laming’s recommendation of 400.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “It’s disgraceful that some parts of the NHS are still failing to comply with basic child protection requirements like carrying out criminal record checks on staff.

“Ministers must look into this as a matter of urgency and hold those Trusts who have failed to put proper safeguards in place to account.

“The government must learn the lessons from the tragic case of Baby Peter as soon as possible. This means providing frontline staff with the training and support they need to protect vulnerable children.”

Cynthia Bower, CQC chief executive, said: “Immediately after the Baby P tragedy, everyone agreed that everything possible must be done to prevent a recurrence. This must not prove to be hollow rhetoric. The NHS has got to play its part by getting these safeguarding measures in place.”

CQC inspectors will now follow up with the 29 trusts that have declared non-compliance to check on action being taken.

In partnership with Ofsted, CQC will now carry out week-long inspections focusing on safeguarding and the health of looked-after children.

The inspections will cover every part of the country over the next three years.

CQC has been given a range of powers to enforce compliance, issuing fines and forcing closure.

The regulator is urging the government to provide an annual update on performance against measures to safeguard children, following this one-off review.