Paediatricians are being so overstretched that they are leaving children at risk of abuse, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has claimed.

The body reckoned that in some cases one paediatrician can be responsible for over 200,000 children. And it warned that child protection should not become an afterthought as the health service undergoes major reforms. When questioned, just over 10 per cent of paediatricians reckoned the changes would make child protection better.

“It is clear that doctors do not feel adequately trained or resourced to effectively safeguard children, potentially putting children’s lives at risk,” the RCPCH said.

It added: “Professionals are concerned that a lack of clarity about the nature and structure of the health reforms may allow vulnerable services and patients to slip through gaps and that the provision of continuity of care is vital. There is ‘extreme doubt as to who is responsible for what’ and the health reforms are ‘yet another challenge in an already busy job’.”

Dr Amanda Thomas, child protection officer at the RCPCH, said: “There are clearly serious concerns among doctors about the future of safeguarding – in particular about their ability to fulfil their duties due to lack of time, training and resources. In order to protect children, it is crucial that safeguarding is not seen as an afterthought, but instead a central part of our health service.

“That’s why we want to see the government’s forthcoming statutory guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, make it absolutely clear what the responsibilities and accountabilities of agencies and professionals involved in the system are and that the new safeguarding arrangements in the NHS are communicated clearly and quickly. We also want to see the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence develop a quality standard for safeguarding to drive up standards.”