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Sheffield doctors treat hundreds of abused children

Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Sheffield Children's Hospital.

 

Nearly 500 abused children needed to be seen by doctors in Sheffield last year.

New figures have revealed 495 appointments were made for patients under 18 at Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s child-assessment unit – more than half of which were for victims of physical assaults or neglect.

Last year 245 children were medically examined after being physically abused – a big increase from 154 in 2012/13.

The figures are revealed in Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust’s annual Safeguarding Children report.

Most of the abuse cases were referred to the unit by social workers, doctors or hospital consultants.

The NSPCC said the increase could be due to people being ‘more aware and willing to spot the signs of abuse’.

But the report raises concerns about the declining number of cases referred to hospital by police - a figure which ‘continues to drop’.

Last year 415 new appointments were offered, and 80 follow-up sessions arranged.

More than 80 neglected children needed a medical check, up from 74 in 2012/13.

Three youngsters were seen for ‘emotional abuse’ and 46 had a paediatric assessment, where a child is referred by a doctor who believes they would benefit from a further examination.

There was also a ‘significant drop’ in the number of sexually-abused children seen, from 82 new cases in 2012/13 to 39 in 2013/14.

But the report said: “Child sexual assault cases are dependent on disclosure rates - it takes a considerable amount of time for a child to pluck up the courage to make a disclosure, hence this is not an indication that cases are on the decline.”

It added referrals from the police continue to drop.

“One possible explanation will be that, after a discussion between police and social care, social care is selected to make the referral. On the other hand, the possibility that cases are not referred as they should be also needs to be considered.”

John Reid, director of nursing and clinical operations at the trust, said: “We see some very vulnerable families within our service and we do everything we can to make sure they receive the best possible treatment when in our care.

“Our figures show there has been an increase in the numbers of child protection appointments in 2013/14, with 495 cases recorded compared to 465 in the previous year. However, this is still lower than the 516 cases in 2011/12.

“Physical abuse continues to be the most common form of abuse seen for medical examinations, and is the reason for the rise this year.”

Mr Reid added: “The amount of cases we see tends to fluctuate each year. This is due to a multitude of reasons such as the number of referrals made to social services and how many cases were judged to require a medical examination.

“There has been a national trend towards increased referrals from social care.”

Over the past year a designated doctor for safeguarding has been recruited at the trust, and a specialist South Yorkshire Children’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre set up.

Anyone concerned that a child is being neglected or abused should alert social services or police, or call the NSPCC’s 24-hour hotline on 0808 800 5000.

 

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