Safeguarding, for the many not the few

We all know safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, but with increasing demand on services, competing priorities, recruitment difficulties and budget restrictions, healthcare professionals are feeling overwhelmed. Embedding safeguarding within day-to-day practice and taking part in statutory work can feel impossible alongside everything else, and sometimes it falls by the wayside, until something goes wrong. 

Jenni Illman explains how RCPCH’s Invited Reviews Service has helped teams overcome these challenges.

First things first then, what exactly is the Invited Reviews Service?

A sort of peer-review plus; we support teams and managers in identifying and resolving problems.

Sounds simple, but what does that look like in practice?

We’ll report our findings along with practical, achievable recommendations for overcoming current obstacles

Well that depends, we spend time getting to know our clients, so we can tailor a review to their needs. Our multidisciplinary pool of reviewers has expertise spanning team working, safety, child protection, training, recruitment, stakeholder engagement and reconfiguration along with in-depth knowledge of service models and standards.  

We’ll usually involve some degree of data analysis, site-visits, in-depth interviews, along with wider stakeholder engagement (where appropriate). We’ll report our findings along with practical, achievable recommendations for overcoming current obstacles. Increasingly we find clients would like help with action planning and implementation, so we also offer ongoing support and facilitation where required. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve seen around safeguarding?

We’ve seen a whole range of services in difficulty, but the most common findings are:

  • Staff not feeling confident or supported in identifying and managing safeguarding concerns
  • Widespread vacancies in statutory roles and staff undertaking multiple roles on top of their clinical responsibilities - often with little to no time in their job plans, and without an agreed job description
  • Staff, particularly in community services, telling us their safeguarding and other statutory responsibilities is taking over their other clinical work, in already stretched services
  • Despite clear guidance we often see confusion at an organisational level as to what the requirements are for statutory roles. Designated and Named Professionals have told us it can be difficult to get management to understand the challenges they’re facing, or to procure the resources they need. We’ve seen occasions where this hasn’t been put in place until something has gone very wrong
  • Clinical staff have also told us they’re not always clear what the various statutory roles are for, who is in post or how to access help when they need it
  • Fraught relationships between commissioners and providers can make communication, relationship building and oversight from Designated Professionals challenging

Although it is important to note that reviews are only invited by clients with concerns about a service, and there undoubtedly some excellent, well-resourced services in the UK!

We’ve talked about the challenges around safeguarding - how can you help?

Our reviewers...provide recommendations which are realistic, achievable in the current climate and most importantly, in best interest of children and young people

Our reviews provide time outside of the day job for staff and other stakeholders to share their views and experiences – and an environment to consider new ways of working in a confidential, risk-free environment.  We often find problems have been building up for a long time and reviews are an excellent opportunity to clear the air and allow everyone to move on from the past. 

As a medical royal college, we bring data, information, expertise and advice held uniquely by us, including policy and specialist clinical comment. Our reviewers have extensive experience in the NHS and will understand first-hand the challenges you’re facing. They don’t use jargon and will provide recommendations which are realistic, achievable in the current climate and most importantly, in best interest of children and young people.

OK, but do the reviews actually make a difference? Where’s the evidence?

Yes absolutely! Over 80% of clients gave positive feedback on the reviews process with evidence of action planning and change occurring as a result of our reviews.  Most of our clients are confidential, so I can’t talk about them by name, but there are some anonymised examples on our website. But if all of that’s not enough we can provide references.

Do you just focus on safeguarding?

Not at all, we review case notes, individuals, teams, services, networks and can cover the private health sector as well as NHS across the four nations.  For those that don’t need a fully-fledged review we can also support action planning and team development with packages of facilitation or consultancy. 

Sounds great, but I bet there’s a cost?

We’re not a profit-making enterprise, our objective is to support teams to improve child health, but we do need to cover costs. Once we understand what’s required we’ll agree a single fee upfront, which will be significantly less than your average management consultancy (!) and of course the findings come with the backing of a professional royal college. 

If someone would like a review what do they need to do?

Just get in touch and let’s chat about what’s been happening for you. There’s no obligation and in the rare occasion we can’t help we can probably point you to someone who can!

If you’d like to contact Jenni, or the Invited Reviews Service you can email or call 020 7092 6049.  

You can also visit our Invited Reviews Service web page.