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Findings from a Delphi exercise regarding conflicts of interests, general practitioners and safeguarding children: ‘Listen carefully, judge slowly’
  1. Ann Gallagher1,2,
  2. Paul Wainwright1,
  3. Hilary Tompsett1,
  4. Christine Atkins1
  1. 1Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, Kingston University and St George's University of London, Kingston Hill, London, UK
  2. 2International Centre for Nursing Ethics, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ann Gallagher, International Centre for Nursing Ethics, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7TE, UK; a.gallagher{at}


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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  • Funding His work was made possible by a research grant from the UK Department for Education and Skills (later Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) now Department for Education) and the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This project was approved by the UK South East Multi-Centre Research Ethics Committee and by the relevant research and development committee in each of the participating primary care trusts.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.