Organisations in the health sector have been subject to a number of investigations relating to child sexual abuse occurring in healthcare settings, including 44 investigations into the activities of Jimmy Savile relating to the NHS.
Following these investigations, a number of recommendations were made which required action by NHS and other health sector organisations. The Inquiry seeks to understand the actions that the health sector has taken in response to these recommendations, and the current arrangements that are in place to protect children from being sexually abused in healthcare settings.
Organisations were invited to submit their views in response to a number of questions on this. On Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 September 2017, the Inquiry will hold a seminar examining the prevention of child sexual abuse in healthcare settings in England and Wales. The submissions received on this subject by the Inquiry will help to inform the matters which will be considered in more depth at the seminar. It will also inform the Inquiry’s further consideration of the effective prevention of and response to child sexual abuse in healthcare settings.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) submitted the following responses to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:
5) How effectively are organisations and people held to account for the effective prevention of child sexual abuse in healthcare settings?
FSRH believes that accountability should ultimately rest at an organisational level as individual failings can be the result of wider organisational issues and flaws. This should be reflected in procedures to prevent child sexual abuse in healthcare settings.
7) What do you see as being the major opportunities for organisations in the health sector to prevent the sexual abuse of children in healthcare settings?
Relationships and Sex Education
FSRH welcomed the government decision earlier this year to introduce statutory Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) in schools across the UK. We believe that this will be a major opportunity to help prevent the sexual abuse of children in all settings, including in healthcare settings. Starting age appropriate SRE from a young age has been shown to cultivate a positive attitude in young people towards their sexuality and relationships, equipping them to make confident, informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health and will enable them to understand what is and what is not appropriate behaviour from the people around them.
We also believe there should be a co-ordinated multi-agency approach focussed on prevention and victim support. This approach should start from a young age, educating young people about domestic and sexual violence in all of its forms and their right to a violence-free life. Ensuring that these issues are covered in RSE is an essential opportunity to help prevent the sexual abuse of children in healthcare settings as well as in wider efforts to prevent sexual abuse everywhere. Organisations in the health sector should therefore be engaging with the development of RSE where possible in order to ensure that the guidelines reflect the concerns of the health sector.
Cultivating an environment of trust/ CSE risk assessment tools
Moreover, many of our members routinely work with young people to address their sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) needs and work hard to cultivate an environment of trust where young people feel comfortable making disclosures that may extend beyond SRH, concerning their wider safety.
In particular, FSRH actively supports the introduction of CSE risk assessment tools to aid frontline healthcare professionals in their assessment of potential risk. One such tool has been developed by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and Brook with support from FSRH. It is called “Spotting the Signs” and consists of a proforma that allows SRH professionals to use a standardised approach to identifying young people who may be at risk of or experiencing CSE. Spotting the Signs is funded by the Department of Health and was piloted in a range of services including GUM clinics, specialist young people’s services and General Practice.
8) What needs to happen to ensure that organisations in the health sector best protect children receiving health care and treatment from being sexually abused?
FSRH believes that a nature of openness and honesty must be maintained in the health sector. One of the best ways to protect young people is to protect their right to access confidential sexual health services whilst supporting health care professionals to be able to identify whether young people might be at risk of harm or exploitation and to be trained in how to proceed with this information. In order to protect SRH and other health services as spaces where children and young people can talk freely and honestly, safeguarding measures must be enforced and there should be statutory measures where young people can feel assured that appropriate action, and not blanket reporting, will be taken when there is reasonable cause to suspect they are at risk, thereby preserving and promoting trust between young people and healthcare professionals. This will not only aid professionals to reach a more informed judgement as to a young person’s risk of abuse, but also help to support young people to feel confident in accessing SRH services. Maintaining the confidentiality of services for young people is vital for ensuring trust and encouraging engagement with sexual health services.
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