Social workers and social care assessors at Cheshire East Council are accessing the NHS Personal Demographic Service using Esprit’s ShareCare system.

ShareCare was the first social care application to gain accreditation for integration with the PDS in December last year.

The system went live at the council on 3 January, allowing staff to search the national database for client information in real time.

East Cheshire CAF programme manager, Jan Hoogewerf, said 50 social workers and social care assessors have access to the PDS via smart cards, as part of a 45-day live test period.

The council estimated that access to the PDS would save five minutes per new assessment, because staff would no longer have to manually enter client details that they could look up on the database.

With more than 6,000 assessments being conducted every year, this meant a total saving of 523 social worker hours annually. It should also mean quicker referrals, because assessors will have people’s NHS Numbers immediately available.

“Users have found it easy to use, the main problem has been with smart cards – people forgetting them or locking themselves out.

“What we need to do longer term is make sure someone is onsite at each place to deal with smart card problems,” Hoogewerf said.

East Cheshire Council is one of the Department of Health’s CAF demonstrator sites, working on better integration between health and social care agencies.

“We saw that linking to the PDS through the Spine was critical to that in terms of having an NHS Number,” Hoogewerf said.

Esprit project manager Tracey Griffiths said the PDS accreditation process was “challenging” and took about three and a half years in total.

She said ShareCare was only connected to a small part of the PDS, but there was a common assurance process that all software had to go through.

“I can understand (the accreditation process) has its value, but it doesn’t scale very well,” she explained. “In hindsight you almost need someone (in the company) dedicated to do that.”

Now the ShareCare software itself has been approved, the accreditation process should not be as difficult for other customers.

The product was customised for East Cheshire Council wanted, but within constraints set out by CfH. Other sites are going through the PDS accreditation process with different suppliers.

“In terms of the product, it enables us to provide end users with the ability to have accurate data about a person they are going to see,” said Griffiths.

“The data is there for them in real time and is a launch pad to be able to access other parts of the national spine capabilities as and when it should, under the changing agenda, become available.”