Data system bids to thwart abuse
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Child Protection Information System will help health professionals detect early signs of abuse or neglect
The Department for Health chose the window between Christmas and New Year to announce the launch of a Child Protection Information System. Scheduled to go live in 2015, it will enable health professionals in emergency departments and urgent care centres nationwide to find out if the children they treat are subject to a child protection plan or are looked after. It aims to help spot signs of abuse or neglect that have been missed in previous tragedies including that of Peter Connelly. At £9m, the outlay is modest for a government IT project.
But there are questions about how easily it can be put into practice, while some fear it will do little to address wider child protection concerns within the health service.
On the face of it, the system will be simple. Experts from the body that develops health service IT systems – NHS Connecting for Health – will create a link between local authority computer records and NHS systems. When a doctor or nurse accesses basic information on a child, an icon, or “flag”, will indicate whether the child is subject to a child protection plan or is looked after. If so, they will be able to see if the child has attended any other emergency settings as well as contact details for the local authority.
David Low is a consultant paediatrician and chair of the informatics for quality committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), one of the organisations involved in the plans to develop the system. He says “signposting systems” between health services and councils are already in place in some areas. But the process can be time-consuming and they generally only gather information on children receiving treatment in the area in which they are registered.
“From a health point of view, we have a very incomplete knowledge of children on a child protection plan,” Low says. “In my area of Sandwell, half the people using services come from Birmingham. We have a local scheme to know when children have a chil