Just under three-quarters of doctors, dentists and community nurses said they were aware of some of the mechanisms of reporting child physical abuse, but 79 per cent felt they needed further information. Over a fifth (21 per cent) said they were worried about getting it wrong. Confronting families, inexperience and fear of litigation were also common barriers to reporting.

“The ability to recognise physical abuse and willingness to report it varied between the groups” says lead researcher Dr Anne Lazenbatt, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. “Our survey of 419 healthcare professionals showed that community nurses were most likely to recognise and report physical abuse. It also revealed that fears, anxieties and lack of knowledge stop primary healthcare professionals from reporting abuse and that they need more education, training and support in this area.”

74 per cent were aware of the mechanisms for reporting – with community nurses showing the highest levels of awareness, followed by doctors and dentists. 99 per cent said recognising and reporting child physical abuse should be part of undergraduate and postgraduate training and 79 per cent wanted further in-service training.

“The findings suggest that recognising child physical abuse is both a complex and difficult task for primary healthcare professionals and illustrates a substantial gap between their ability to recognise maltreatment and knowledge of the pathways for reporting it” concludes Dr Lazenbatt.

Research published by the United Nations in 2002 suggests that 3,500 children under the age of 15 die from child physical abuse every year in the industrialised world.

MEDICA.de; Source: Journal of Advanced Nursing