BACKGROUND: Organisations in England's National Health Service (NHS) are required to have 'did not attend' (DNA) guidelines to help deal with the 'unseen child'.
AIMS: To map DNA and associated guidelines in paediatric services, examine differences in safeguarding response and advice in the guidelines and explore the experience of guideline users.
METHODS: A mapping approach was used to locate current DNA guidelines on English NHS organisations' websites. Analysis of the guidelines was supplemented with qualitative data from those who produce, monitor or use them.
RESULTS: Fewer than 8% of English NHS organisations had up-to-date guidelines in the public domain, though a further 41% stated that they had a DNA/similar policy in place or had an out-of-date guideline on their website. Advice to healthcare providers about the steps to take when a child DNAs fell into five categories: reflection and review; direct interaction with the family; indirect interaction with the family; liaison with internal colleagues; and external referral. Interviews with eight individuals led to the identification of four themes. The management of information flows was central to the effective management of DNA. Respondents also reported seeking support and advice from others. While all respondents spoke about the importance of supporting the family, the child's needs were central to dealing with non-attendance, and respondents demonstrated awareness of wider risk discourses.
CONCLUSIONS: We consider the implications of the work and suggest that evidence-informed guidelines developed nationally but tailored to specific services might be helpful for providers and users alike.