Children's social workers should have immediate access to paediatricians when they have child protection concerns, according to the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
The RCPCH has published a set of ten standards that set out how social workers, police and health departments should have round-the-clock access to a paediatrician with child protection skills and experience to provide immediate advice and assessment on children and young people aged under 18 in circumstances where there are child protection concerns.
The RCPCH document says an initial strategy discussion should take place in accordance with local policies within two hours and then, depending on the needs of the young person, the child should be assessed and an opinion provided within 12 hours where there is evidence of recent injuries.
"Specialist paediatric and forensic opinion should be available to all units within four hours for all acute sexual assaults and all unexpected child deaths," the document states, adding: "Paediatricians should act as the 'single point of contact' for children's social care departments to articulate the concerns of the medical professionals involved with the family."
The standards address the timeliness of care, the grade of doctors that can review and discharge children, the availability of consultant input, the minimum number of doctors required for safe rotas as well as doctor's responsibilities in respect of child protection services.
Publishing the document, RCPCH president professor Terence Stephenson said: "At this time of difficulty in many paediatric services, I am proud of the fact that paediatricians are laying down a marker and setting the standards by which all children and young people should be treated.
"I have no doubt that these standards will help improve the medical care of children."