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Hilary Garratt, NHS England Director of Nurse Commissioning and Health Improvement, reflects on the launch today of the Child Protection – Information Sharing system.
We have been talking about developing shared information systems to protect vulnerable children well before I was a practicing health visitor back in 1989. It has now happened and I was delighted to be the NHS England sponsor of the Child Protection – Information Sharing system (CP-IS), and to have chaired the programme board that steered this landmark initiative, the first national system of its kind.
CP-IS is a new national alert system to help prevent child abuse. The system will bring information from local authorities about looked after children and children with a child protection plan into one place for clinicians in unscheduled care settings to access.
Health care staff are in a key position to identify warning signs of abuse or neglect. Using CP-IS they will be able to see whether a child has frequently attended emergency departments or urgent care centres over a period of time. Until now we have not had the facility nationally for child protection information to be shared. Therefore it has not been possible for staff in health and social care to easily and swiftly identify if children were making multiple visits to different unscheduled care settings across the country. This information will be shared through CP-IS.
With the roll-out of CP-IS, a child from Cornwall who is looked after by the local authority, or subject to a child protection plan, who presents in a Manchester A&E will be identified quickly as such. The fact that the child has presented in Manchester can be quickly communicated to the relevant local authority colleagues in Cornwall.
Developing CP-IS has involved many agencies and professionals. Whilst we have made some local progress in recent years with local authorities and health organisations sharing some information about the children who are resident within their boundaries, we have not until today developed a national system that will identify all children who enter unscheduled and emergency care settings, regardless of where they live.
The programme has taken four years to develop. The technical support and detail behind the system construction has been phenomenal. However, what has also been commendable is the amount of integrated work we have done with the organisations that have supported it: Department of Health, Department for Education, Health and Social Care Information System, regulators, Royal colleges and safeguarding boards.
We have communicated and actively engaged with every Clinical Commissioning Group, local authority and safeguarding board in the country in an impressive exercise in support and collaboration. Equally impressive and insightful has been the clinical engagement with staff. We have been up and down the country taking to individual and groups of staff from front line urgent care staff and social workers and to hundreds of safeguarding professionals who are key to supporting the implementation of the system.
We have 92,000 looked after children in the UK, 50% of whom suffered abuse in 2012 – 2013. We also know from most serious case reviews of children suffering abuse that information sharing between professionals is a key feature requiring attention.
Today marks a huge turning point to securing better information sharing for vulnerable children and its success now needs to continue being driven by the commitment and vigilance of all NHS and local authority organisations to use it well and to demonstrate its benefits. If we do this, the system has scope and potential to identify more individuals who are vulnerable.
I look forward to rapid roll out so we have 80% of local authorities signed up to sharing information by 2015.