A fresh £8.6m initiative to co-ordinate NHS and social services data to improve child protection has been announced by the government.
The Times and BBC News report that the system, due to be adopted by 2015, will ensure that accident and emergency staff can access information about a child’s recent visits to hospitals around the country.
It will also record whether the young patient is the subject of any kind of protection plan drawn up by a social services department.
It is hoped that the system will support doctors’ and nurses’ existing efforts to detect non-accidental injury by alerting them to children brought to hospital for numerous emergency visits.
The system should also help to foil abusing parents who take injured children to different A&E departments to avoid detection.
The initiative is not the first of its kind. The Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders recommended that information should be shared more effectively by agencies involved in the care of children.
Section 12 of the Children Act 2004 gave the health secretary the power to make regulations to require the establishment and operation of databases or index systems.
EHealth Insider reported extensively on the ContactPoint database which was set up by the Labour government to record information about all children in England.
The extensive and detailed nature of ContactPoint attracted criticism and the coalition government scrapped it after taking office.
Health minister, Dr Dan Poulter, moved to reassure caring parents that the new system would not affect families in which the children had one or two visits to A&E.
He told The Times: "This is something to make sure we protect really vulnerable children.
"Children fall over, they have accidents but it is the circumstances surrounding those accidents and the type of injuries that inform your opinion of whether that child may have been abused.
"So a couple of injuries running around in the garden or tripping over on the pavement is not something that would cause anybody any concern.
"But if there are repeated suspicious fractures that may be from pulling or tugging, or suspicious bruising, scalding of children: those are things that can build up a picture of a child that’s potentially abused."
Dr Simon Eccles, medical director of NHS Connecting for Health and an A&E consultant, also interviewed in The Times, said he had no doubt that clinicians treating Victoria Climbie, a child who was murdered, would have behaved differently if they had been able to access the type of system proposed.
Victoria died after repeated abuse by her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend. The failure of different agencies involved in her care to share information was seen as a key factor in the case.