Press release

Doctors and nurses to help protect vulnerable children

Hospitals will have a new system to help doctors and nurses spot children suffering from abuse and neglect, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter announced today.

The Minister has given the green light for work on the system to begin in early 2013, and it will start to be introduced to NHS hospitals in 2015.

Doctors and nurses using the system in emergency departments or urgent care centres will be able to see 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.

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.”

NHS doctors and nurses can be the first people in authority to see victims of abuse, but at the moment it can be difficult to tell if children have frequently had urgent treatment, or are already known to be at risk.  This is hugely important for spotting neglect or abuse - especially if the doctor is seeing suspicious injuries like bruising, scratches, bite marks and burns.

Under the new 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.

This does not in itself mean there is a problem, but 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 will help them build up a better picture of what is happening in the child’s life so they can alert social services if they think something might be wrong - improving links between the NHS and social services.

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.”

Notes to editors

  1. Information about whether a child is on a child protection plan is statutory and is available on a need-to-know basis to all public bodies involved with the care of a child.
  2. Information about where a child was last treated and by whom is available on the NHS record. This system will bring all that information into one, easy-to access place for clinicians to access.
  3. Only NHS staff involved with the treatment of the child will have access to the information. All the normal rules about patient confidentiality will apply.
  4. The system is known as the ‘Child Protection - Information System’.

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