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Can child safeguarding training be improved?: findings of a multidisciplinary audit

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Child protection has become a very poignant subject in the UK. The Laming report into the death of Victoria Climbié led to the implementation of multidisciplinary safeguarding policies and training for healthcare professionals, social services staff and police. However, many dental practitioners, as well as other healthcare professionals, have little confidence when reporting their concerns and reducing the ‘gap’ between suspicion and reporting (Laming in The victoria climbie inquiry: report of an inquiry by Lord Laming, 2003. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-victoria-climbie-inquiry-report-of-an-inquiry-by-lord-laming). Our audit aimed to identify and address the barriers of reporting safeguarding concerns amongst the hospital team.

Materials and methods

Questionnaires were distributed to staff at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare National Health Service Trust with a valid Safeguarding Children Level 3 certificate in order to assess their knowledge of safeguarding children. Changes to traditional safeguarding training (Group 1) were implemented to include a broader range of speakers, each speaking for shorter times with more personal and focused presentations (Groups 2 and 3). Three cohorts of participants were assessed including healthcare assistants, nurses, dentists, and doctors.


Group 1 (n = 100) reported 64% experience of reporting compared with group 2 (n = 100) 43% and group 3 (n = 76) 51%. Confidence was higher in those with more experience in child protection. The most common barrier was the uncertainty of diagnosis. More barriers to reporting existed in the new style of training in groups 2 and 3. The scenarios were answered with appropriate concern and reporting by groups 1 and 2, however, less for group 3.


Experienced and trained practitioners are more likely to refer children to child protection teams when they have concerns of abuse or neglect. Personalising training was shown to be less effective and the focus should be more on diagnosis and local protocols. Early training from undergraduate level was a unanimous request.


Focused training on diagnosis and local protocols, accompanied by bespoke teaching for specific specialties would be the most constructive tool for safeguarding children. Exploring modern methods such as simulation-based training could be effective. Structured forms and local policies that are familiar to clinicians prevent omissions and encourage professional awareness.

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This study was not funded.

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Correspondence to A. Patrick.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (include name of committee + reference number) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Patrick, A., Kandiah, T. & Welbury, R. Can child safeguarding training be improved?: findings of a multidisciplinary audit. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40368-020-00513-1

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  • Safeguarding
  • Child protection
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Training