Findings from a Delphi exercise regarding conflicts of interests, general practitioners and safeguarding children: 'Listen carefully, judge slowly'

Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (2):87-92 (2012)
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General practitioners (GPs) have to negotiate a range of challenges when they suspect child abuse or neglect. This article details findings from a Delphi exercise that was part of a larger study exploring the conflicts of interest that arise for UK GPs in safeguarding children. The specific objectives of the Delphi exercise were to understand how these conflicts of interest are seen from the perspectives of an expert panel, and to identify best practice for GPs. The Delphi exercise involved four iterative rounds with questionnaires completed by an expert panel. Results from each round were distilled and findings sent to panel members until consensus was reached. Panel members shared insights regarding their understanding of conflicts of interest in relation to GPs and safeguarding children and responses when conflicts of interests arise. Findings suggested a broader understanding of conflicts of interest (intrapersonal, interpersonal, interprofessional and interagency), the importance of professional judgement in uncertain situations when both action and inaction have potentially negative consequences and the importance of trust. The Delphi exercise was an effective means to bring together a wide range of professional and disciplinary perspectives on a complex topic. Findings caution against the oversimplification of the conceptual and practical issues, emphasise the importance of professional judgement, and support the development of open and trusting relationships with families and among professionals in health and social care agencies



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