GPs must take note of warning signs
THE role and responsibilities of GPs to act on warning signs related to potential child abuse were recently examined in the UK following the death of four-yearold Daniel Pelka.
Two months before Daniel was left to die by his mother and her partner, a teacher at his school rang the family’s GP to raise concerns about the boy’s wellbeing.
She reportedly told Dr Mohammed Pathan that Daniel had lost weight, his skin was translucent, and he had been stealing food from other children’s school bags.
Dr Pathan told the teacher to advise Daniel’s mother to contact the surgery and make an appointment.
However, he failed to follow up when Daniel was not brought in, did not take proper records of the conversation, and did not examine the mother’s medical records, which would have revealed a history of depression, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.
Daniel’s mother and her partner were sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder in 2013.
The conduct of Dr Pathan was subsequently examined by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
While the panel found that multiple failures had been demonstrated, representing a serious departure from acceptable standards of practice, it did not amount to serious misconduct.
As Dr Pathan had worked for 44 years without any concerns raised, it was found that his fitness to practise medicine was not impaired.
They also found the doctor had “learned from his mistakes” and said they did not believe him to present a risk to patients.
Anyone who delivers services directly to children and young people, such as teachers, doctors, or even volunteers with children’s services, is required by law to report any child or young person they suspect is at risk of significant harm.
Anyone concerned that a child or young person is being abused or neglected should call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.