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No GP Protocols Exist -- NZMA

Media reports suggesting that general practitioners are ignoring protocols about reporting child abuse are "nonsense", says Dr Pippa MacKay, Chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association.

"GPs are not currently using protocols because protocols do not yet exist for GPs.

"The NZMA supports the development of an effective mechanism for GPs to deal with signs of abuse. We welcome the provision of extra funding to develop guidelines to help GPs recognise and report child abuse."

Dr MacKay said the lack of protocols did not stop GPs from reporting abuse, but they were placed in a difficult position. Often the abuse was suspected, but not confirmed. Some families "shopped around", going to different GPs in order not to arouse suspicion of abuse. There were also patient confidentiality issues to consider.

"Systems must be put in place so doctors can be confident that if they report abuse, the outcome will be effective for the child. If this does not happen, it may result in some families no longer seeking health care for their children, or other unfortunate results," Dr MacKay said.

In October 1998 the Ministry of Health released a booklet called "Family Violence: Guidelines for Health Sector Providers to Develop Practice Protocols", which was the first step towards a more co-ordinated response by health workers to family violence.

"The next step, developing and implementing protocols and training, presents a challenge requiring commitment and leadership from all levels of the health and disability support sector," the booklet said.

Dr MacKay said it was now time for the next step to be taken.

Ends

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