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NICE defends guidance on spotting injuries to babies after criticism from researchers

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has defended its guidance on spotting injuries to babies after criticism from researchers on television.

BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire show heard last week from parents who said they had been investigated for possible child abuse because of the misinterpretation of guidelines on bruising in babies.

It cited University of Central Lancashire research that suggested the NICE guidelines meant social services were investigating parents too often.

Lead researcher Professor Andy Bilson told the programme that "social workers are in danger of having to take decisions based on really misleading interpretations of research".

The researchers said 91 of 152 top tier councils in England had specific guidance on how staff should respond to possible abuse but 77% of these did not give staff latitude to make judgements about the causes of a bruise.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the NICE centre for guidelines, said:  "The physical features detailed in our 2009 child maltreatment guideline are aimed at staff working in hospital settings.

“Bruising is listed as one of several features that healthcare staff should assess to see if there is a medical cause or if it may be an indication of maltreatment.

"We recognise that alerting features will be different for staff working outside hospital settings.

“In October 2017, we issued separate guidance aimed at social workers, teachers, police officers and others on what they should look out for and how to provide early help if they suspect a child is being abused. The guideline gives examples of physical signs, the behaviours or emotions a child is exhibiting, that can be assessed in the context of a child's circumstances and welfare. This guidance is more relevant for social care services and will help staff fulfil their statutory duties to best support children and their families."

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