The DH said the Child Protection Information Sharing (CPIS) system will shortly be available for use in the first wave of NHS organisations and councils taking part in the project.
The system is the government’s attempt to improve information sharing on safeguarding between health and children’s services, and comes four years after the closure of ContactPoint, the previous Labour government’s controversial database of children and young people.
The CPIS will alert health professionals of any child protection concerns about children who visit hospital emergency departments, walk in centres, out-of-hours GP clinics, paediatric wards and maternity units. Ambulance services are also included.
It aims to ensure health professionals with concerns can access information about children with a child protection plan or who are looked after, as well as pregnant women whose unborn child is subject to a pre-birth protection plan.
It is hoped that by 2015 eight out of 10 councils will be involved. By 2018 it is hoped that the same proportion of NHS settings will be integrated.
First announced in late 2012, the CPIS has been set up following a number of recent serious case reviews that cited poor information sharing across health and social care as a factor in professionals not taking action sooner.
The system will differ from ContactPoint in that it will not constitute a standalone database, but instead provide a method for basic information to be shared between existing systems.
Among groups backing the CPIS is the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the NSPCC and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Lisa Harker, head of strategy at the NSPCC, said: "In around 60 per cent of SCRs a lack of information sharing is one of the things that has been highlighted as a contributing factor to children not being protected or safeguarded properly. When professionals share information about a child's circumstances it informs how they respond to a child's immediate need and a system which underpins that will help keep children safer and save lives.”
However, the ADCS has previously raised concerns that the wide range of software systems used by NHS organisations and local authorities could result in information not being updated properly and so create a false sense of security.
At the time of its launch, the DH estimated the cost of delivering CPIS would be £9m, significantly less than the £224m spent on creating ContactPoint. Coalition ministers scrapped ContactPoint, which held the names of 11 million under-18s and the services with which they have had contact, in August 2010 citing cost and security concerns.