Protecting children and young people: The responsibilities of all doctors

Child protection examinations

Key points

  • Get consent or other legal authorisation to carry out a child protection examination.
  • Make sure the person giving consent understands the purpose of the examination, what it will involve and how the results of the examination might be used.
  • Respect a child’s or young person’s decision to refuse an examination.
  • Avoid repeated examinations of a child or young person.

Carrying out a child protection examination

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This guidance provides advice specifically on child protection examinations. A child protection examination is carried out to look for signs that a child or young person has been abused or neglected. This is different from a clinical examination, which aims to establish what is wrong with the child or young person and what treatment may be needed. We provide guidance on getting consent for clinical examinations, investigations or treatment of children and young people in 0–18 years: guidance for all doctors.

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Before carrying out a child protection examination, you must be satisfied that it is necessary and appropriate in the circumstances. You should be clear about what it is designed to achieve and whether the outcome is likely to affect the proposed course of action. You should consider giving the child or young person the option of having another adult present during the examination (this might be a parent, or an independent chaperone, as appropriate).25 You must avoid repeated examinations as these may be harmful to the child or young person.

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See our guidance on maintaining boundaries.