Hospitals will in future have technology to help nurses and other clinicians collect children suffering from abuse and neglect, the government announced over Christmas.
The system is intended to aid staff in emergency departments or urgent care centres to identify if the children they are treating are subject to a child protection plan or being looked after, or have frequently attended emergency departments or urgent care centres over a period of time.
The system is known as the Child Protection – Information System. Only NHS staff involved with the treatment of the child will have access to the information and all the normal rules about patient confidentiality will apply.
Under the system, when a child arrives and is logged in at an emergency department or urgent care centre reception, a flag will appear on the child’s record if they are subject to a child protection plan or are being looked after by the local authority.
Clinicians will then be able to use this information as part of their overall clinical assessment, along with information about where and when children have previously been receiving urgent treatment.
Work on the system is to begin this year but will not start to be introduced to NHS hospitals until 2015.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Doctors and nurses are often the first people to see children who are victims of abuse.
“Up until now, it has been hard for frontline healthcare professionals to know if a child is already listed as being at risk or if children have been repeatedly seen in different emergency departments or urgent care centres with suspicious injuries or complaints, which may indicate abuse.
“Providing instant access to that information means vulnerable and abused children will be identified much more quickly, which will save lives.”
Dr Amanda Thomas, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, described the system as a “positive step”.
“The college has been involved with Child Protection – Information System from an early stage and will continue to work with the Department of Health to ensure it is introduced effectively, integrates well with the working practices of NHS staff and makes a genuine contribution to improving child protection practice,” she said.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “Recent tragic cases have highlighted a lack of communication between different parts of healthcare services, and this announcement is a welcome step forward in addressing those issues.
“This solution will help to provide extra information for nurses who often see patients first in emergency care settings, save time and alert them in identifying whether children are suffering from abuse or neglect. We look forward to continued working with the Department of Health in implementing the system as soon as possible.”