News story

Child protection: information sharing project

The Child Protection Information Sharing (CP-IS) project helps the NHS give a higher level of protection to children who present in unscheduled health care settings.

These settings include:

  • emergency departments
  • walk-in centres
  • minor injury units
  • GP out of hours services
  • ambulance services
  • maternity
  • paediatric wards.

Appropriate healthcare staff working in these areas will be able to identify if a child is subject to a child protection plan or is looked after by a local authority.

CP-IS will tackle a long standing problem for NHS staff, the lack of ready access to timely information which would help inform a clear assessment of a child’s risk of abuse or neglect.  The information will support the clinician in the decision making process and encourage communication with social care.  It will not be there to override the assessment of the child’s needs.

CP-IS is not another ContactPoint, which was intended to be a database of all children. CP-IS does not introduce a new national database but, rather, is a focused solution which will enable local authorities to share non-clinical child protection information with the NHS.

The project builds on existing infrastructure already in place in the NHS and represents an upgrade to existing systems rather than a wholesale system change.  Information will be stored and transferred securely.  Access to CP-IS information will be controlled by NHS smartcard security, which is already widely used for the secure handling of patients’ demographic and clinical data.

In practice, local authorities will feed information on children who are subject to a child protection plan or are looked after from their social care systems into a secure central data store area in the NHS national Spine.  Then health professionals, during the process of registering a child at their care setting, will be informed of the child’s child protection status.  As soon as basic demographic information is inputted, if the child is looked after or subject to a child protection plan, an indicator flag will appear on screen, with the contact details for the relevant local authority.

Information will only be shared on children who are subject to a child protection plan or are looked after, and on pregnant women who have a child protection plan in place for their unborn child.  Such information is already made available locally to unscheduled care settings through a variety of methods.

As CP-IS will be an England wide solution, healthcare staff in unscheduled care settings will ultimately be able to see whether any child with whom they deal has a child protection plan or is looked after, regardless of where in the country that child normally resides.

A record of who has viewed the indicator flag will be available to social care and healthcare staff, allowing them to see if that child has been visiting a range of different unscheduled healthcare settings.  Serious case reviews have demonstrated that abusive and neglectful parents could mask this behaviour by moving between different healthcare services.

CP-IS will cost £8.6 million over a five year period.  It is sponsored by the Department of Health and supported by the Department for Education, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, a wide range of health professional bodies and charities including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

See new child abuse alert system for hospitals published on 27 December 2013.

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