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Children suffering from abuse and neglect will be helped under a new hospital system, health minister Dr Dan Poulter has announced.
The new system will be rolled out in NHS hospitals in 2015 to help doctors and nurses spot children suffering from abuse.
In emergency departments and urgent care centres, doctors and nurses using the system will be able to find out if the children they treat:
• are subject to a child protection plan or being looked after – which means they have already been identified by the authorities as being at risk; and
• have frequently attended emergency departments or urgent care centres over a period of time – which can be an indication of neglect or abuse.
When a child is logged in, 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.
Although this does not mean there is a problem, doctors and nurses will 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.
This information will enable medical staff to understand what is happening in the child’s life ensuring they can alert social services if they think something might be wrong and it will improve links between the NHS and social services.
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.
“Baby P and Victoria Climbie were both shocking and tragic cases – we want to do everything we can to stop them happening again. This is a huge leap forward and will give the authorities a fighting chance of identifying abused children much sooner.”
Dr Amanda Thomas, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The Report of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum published in July 2012 highlighted that professionals working in different care settings need to communicate better with one another on child protection issues, and highlighted the proposed Child Protection – Information System solution as an encouraging move towards ensuring that clinical professionals have immediate access to important child protection information.
“This solution is a positive step and an important part of the overall solution. 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.”
Only NHS staff involved with the treatment of the child will have access to the information and the normal rules about patient confidentiality will apply.