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Reluctance in referring suspected cases of abuse
Dental practices have systems in place to raise concerns internally in the event of suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults. This involves regular training in safeguarding and availability of policies and flowcharts including a named safeguarding lead. Dental team members may recognise examples of abuse such as physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, bullying and financial. The General Dental Council and the Care Quality Commission expect dental practices and dental team members to have robust systems in place for local reporting of concerns in relation to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
Research has revealed that dental team members feel unprepared in reporting abuse and there is reluctance in raising concerns regarding suspected cases of abuse. One of the major areas related to lack of procedural knowledge and so it is very important to ensure that each staff member feels confident in raising concerns and that they should not have fears as to the consequences of any such actions. A common thread of enquiry during CQC inspections relates to procedural knowledge and awareness of local reporting mechanisms in suspected cases of abuse. Another large number of dental team members did not feel confident in diagnosing abuse. It is important to be aware that a diagnosis is not required at the dental team level and that it is simply a case of awareness or suspicion and to discuss with the safeguarding lead and follow the local referral guidelines. An increased level of violence to the child or adult being abused was also a concern where the case was recognised by a staff member. There was also a fear of the consequences of reporting abuse in terms of violence to staff members and the impact to the practice. Some dental team members feared that litigation may result as result of raising concerns. Dental team members should remain confident that they cannot be sued if they raise concerns and follow local guidelines.
Whilst the reluctance in raising concerns is understandable it is a duty of health care professionals to do so and feel confident in sharing information. Regular training will go some way in restoring confidence and reinforcing the responsibilities we all have in protecting children and vulnerable adults.
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