Details of children taken to A&E department to be sent to national database in government bid to crackdown on child abuse
Every emergency visit to hospital will be linked up by NHS computer systemSame system will apply to out-of-hours GP consultationUnder proposals even minor injuries suffered will be loggedConsultant: 'Some parents or carers make it difficult to join all the dots'
09:42 GMT, 27 December 2012
Details of all children taken to accident and emergency departments are to be run through a national database in order to crackdown on child abuse, ministers say.
Every emergency visit to hospital or out-of-hours GP consultation will be linked up by an NHS computer system under plans to help doctors expose cruelty and neglect.
Under the proposals, even minor injuries suffered by children will be logged.
Children taken to accident and emergency departments will have their details logged on a national database in a bid to crackdown on child abuse
Ministers said last night that the new system will help to spot signs of abuse by ‘devious parents’.
The Government wants all hospitals to be using the system by 2015, and is allocating 8.6 million to develop the software.
Doctors and nurses will be able to see if the children they treat are subject to a child protection plan or are being looked after – meaning they are already identified as being at risk.
Medical staff will have to ask questions if they see a pattern of suspicious injuries and if a child has been a frequent visitor to A&E.
It is hoped that by joining up records from around the NHS and social services will help to prevent a repeat of the Baby P scandal.
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.
He said: ‘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.
The proposals are designed to stop cases like the death of Baby P, pictured, happening again
‘This is a huge leap forward and will give the authorities a fighting chance of identifying abused children much sooner,’ he added.
Doctors have welcomed the plans, but campaigners said parents would need to be reassured that the system would not lead to false charges of abuse or be a substitute for clinical skills.
Doctors were told this year by the General Medical Council that they must act if they suspect child abuse, and Dr Poulter, an obstetrician, said that health professionals always had the possibility of abuse in the back of their minds.
Simon Eccles, a consultant at the Homerton Hospital in East London, who is in charge of the scheme, told the Times the system would make it easier for doctors to differentiate injuries suffered by boisterous children and those for which neglectful parents could be responsible.
This would be done by looking for ‘routine minor injuries that a child gets that are just happening too often.
He said: ‘It’s really, really hard to make that fine judgment call — is this just bad luck or is it abuse — if you don’t have the full picture.’
Speaking on Radio 4 Today programme this morning, he added: 'Some parents or carers are making it difficult to join all the dots. They are taking children to different places.
'I have a toddler myself. If he has been taken to hospital by his nursery, I would want (the doctor) treating them to ask a lot of questions.
He said the database would add 'an extra layer' to help target the children and parents who need the most support and help.'
Doctors are already meant to look at a child’s history in their own A&E and can access social services registers if they ask, but in practice usually do not.
Dr Eccles told the Times: ‘I have no doubt that if the clinicians treating Baby P or Victoria Climbi had had this they would have behaved differently. I hope we would save the next one of these cases.’
He added: ‘It’s not punitive, it’s just facts. As long as you explain to parents, they’re usually fine.’