460 abuse cases seen by medics at Sheffield hospital

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More than 460 abused children were seen by medics in Sheffield last year, new figures reveal.

Doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s child assessment unit saw 465 youngsters under the age of 18, more than half of whom were suspected victims of neglect or physical abuse at the hands of parents, relatives or carers.

The number of child protection clinical appointments in 2012/13 was slightly down on the year before, when 516 children were seen – but the hospital said that was because fewer follow-up appointments were needed than in 2011/12.

Children’s charity the NSPCC said problems with neglect are ‘severe’ across the country, and encouraged people to report cases if they are worried about a youngster.

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

Doctors checked 162 physically-abused children, while 131 were examined for neglect. Some 108 sexually-abused children were seen.

Of the remaining cases, six were given appointments for ‘emotional abuse’ and 54 needed paediatric assessments after being referred by doctors who believed the children would benefit from a further examination.

More than 300 cases were referred from social services, and 19 from GPs.

Just under 60 cases were referred by police and 42 by consultant paediatricians.

Other cases were passed to the unit by specialist registrars and health visitors.

Dr Edna Asumang, consultant paediatrician at the hospital trust, said: “We see some extremely vulnerable families within our service and do everything we can to ensure they are well cared for with the best possible treatment available.

“Our figures show a decline in the number of child protection appointments in 2012-2013, with 465 recorded which is down from 516 in the previous year.

“The breakdown of these figures show there was a three per cent drop in new appointments made and a 25 per cent drop in follow-up cases.

“Not all patients seen for a child protection medical require a follow-up appointment – this is true of most of the patients seen for physical abuse.

“As the results show that more patients than the previous year did not require a second appointment after the initial medical examination, the drop in follow-up cases is likely to be the reason for the decrease in the total number of appointments.”

A spokeswoman for the NSPCC said: “It’s difficult to compare figures because of population differences, but there is no reason to believe Sheffield would see more or less cases of neglect and physical abuse than elsewhere.

“Problems of neglect are severe, making up nearly half of all abuse cases in England, yet incidences often get overlooked because they are rarely reported, compared to other types of harm.

“Often the public are uncertain at what point to report it.”

She said the most common forms of neglect include failing to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter, not protecting youngsters from physical or emotional harm, failing to supervise children properly, and denying them medical treatment.

Issues such as stress, mental health problems, drug and alcoholic addiction can also cause parents to neglect their children, she added.

n Anyone with concerns about a child or young person’s welfare should alert social services or police, or call the NSPCC’s 24-hour hotline on 0808 800 5000.