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A tool that provides data on protected vulnerable children for the NHS and local authorities is being broadened to include school nurses and health visitors.
The move forms part of NHS Digital’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is intended to strengthen protection for children at risk of abuse at a time when the risk for many is heightened.
Child Protection Information Sharing (CP-IS) is a system that alerts NHS staff when children who are subject to a child protection plan, or children designated as ‘looked after’, or pregnant women who have an unborn child protection plan, present at an unscheduled care setting (such as an A&E or walk in centre).
It also alerts the child’s social worker when such a visit occurs, ensuring a joined up full picture.
Now the system is being urgently amended so that school nurses and health visitors will receive details of all children falling under any of those three categories in their school or area. The information will be sent to them via their clinical system from the NHS Spine.
This extension to the service was part of a broader programme due to be introduced by 2023, but is instead being introduced now to this focused group of care professionals in a matter of days.
Some areas already have local systems in place for sharing such data with school nurses and health visitors, but at a time when capacity at local authorities could be depleted, this national solution will provide an additional layer of protection for vulnerable children.
This extension of the CP-IS service will provide school nurses and health visitors with a reliable source of information on who vulnerable children are in circumstances where the capacity of local agencies is reduced and where existing local information sharing cannot be relied upon.
A data provision notice (DPN) has been issued today to notify local authorities that NHS Digital will be collecting this data and sharing it in this way. This provides no additional burden to local authorities or NHS staff. A letter to all local authority directors of children’s services is due to be sent out today explaining the new functionality to them.
The service is set to be live in London by next week in pilot form before being rolled out nationally as swiftly as possible thereafter.
Martin Dennys, programme director at NHS Digital, said:
“We know that a deeply concerning potential unintended consequence of the current regulations in place to try and keep people at home to save lives is that vulnerable children already at risk of being abused are even more at risk.
“We are working around the clock to extend the crucial information shared through Child Protection Information Sharing to school nurses and health visitors as quickly as possible, to provide what could be a crucial extra layer of information and protection at a time when local arrangements for such data-sharing may be difficult to administer.”
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said:
“This vital information sharing is particularly welcome at a time when the coronavirus lockdown is exposing the challenges of keeping the most vulnerable children safe.
“These children can be exposed to a cocktail of secondary risks – lack of food in the house, cramped living conditions or neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse and parental mental health problems.
“At a time of unprecedented pressure on the services which are there to protect children, it is more important than ever that every tool is used to identify and help those who are most at risk.”