A requirement for doctors to log all suspected child abuse cases has led to a significant rise in parents being wrongly accused.
Since 2011 family doctors have been obliged to fill in a questionnaire if they see possible signs of abuse while examining children. Research found that in 92% of cases where the survey was employed the suspicion proved to be unfounded. For accident and emergency cases the figure was 97%.
Researcher Maartje Schouten studied 5,000 assessments made in doctors’ surgeries in the Utrecht area. In 1% of cases a child was later reported as having been abused even though the survey detected no sign of wrongdoing.
Schouten said the structure of the form should be changed and doctors needed to approach the subject with parents in a different manner. ‘Rather than starting the conversation by accusing parents, they should investigate together the reason why a child has been harmed,’ she told the NPO Radio 1 Journaal.
The Netherlands is the only country in the world with a compulsory reporting system for family doctors. The scheme was introduced on the recommendation of the health inspectorate (Inspectie voor de Gezondheiszorg).
The organisation said there were no plans to change the questionnaire. ‘The alternative is that we miss even more cases of children being abused,’ senior inspector Frank van Leerdam told De Volkskrant.