Health services in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, are failing to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect, according to a new review.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog review followed a report by professor Alexis Jay last year into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the town.
Jay estimated that 1,400 children in Rotherham had suffered CSE between 1997 and 2013.
The review found a “lack of understanding” across services about where responsibility for safeguarding children and dealing with CSE lies.
The review said GPs needed to fully understand the child protection process.
It said health services for children needed better communication and closer partnership working.
It said school nurses were overstretched and struggling to help protect vulnerable children.
And it said pharmacists and workers at Rotherham’s health walk-in centre should be made “aware of their role for local screening in referring young people for sexually-transmitted infections or in raising safeguarding concerns”.
The CQC review, published on Tuesday of last week, said Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group must draw up an action plan within 20 working days.
CQC deputy chief inspector Sue McMillan said the situation was “unacceptable”.
A separate CQC report on Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust found that it requires improvement.
Services for children and young people were rated inadequate.
The report identified “risks” to children’s safety, particularly those with mental health needs.
Inspectors visited Rotherham Hospital and other services provided by the trust in February and March this year.
Chief inspector of hospitals professor Sir Mike Richards said many examples “showed that staff were caring, compassionate and treated patients with dignity and respect, even when they were working under significant pressure”.
But “staffing levels” were below nationally recognised guidelines.
The service did not always meet the needs of children and young people.
Staff felt their caseloads were “unmanageable”. Problems with staffing levels were “impacting heavily on staff morale, sickness and retention”.
Inspector criticises South Wales Police
South Wales Police needs to improve its understanding of the extent of CSE, according to an inspector.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) is continuing to investigate police forces across England and Wales. It inspected South Wales Police in February and March this year.
It praised officers’ “commitment” to tackling CSE.
But it found a lack of understanding and said children were being unnecessarily detained in custody overnight.
Inspectors were particularly concerned about police failure to protect children who are regularly missing from home or treat them as at risk of abuse.