The first wave of the Child Protection Information Sharing project is due to go live next month.

The system, where children identified as vulnerable by social services will be flagged to NHS staff if they attend A&E or other unscheduled care settings, will go live across local authority and NHS sites in North East London, North West England, Wakefield and North Tyneside in April.

The project, which will cost £8.6m over the next five years, has been developed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Speaking at HC2014 in Manchester last week Tom Burnett, HSCIC’s programme manager for the project, said it would help NHS clinicians’ decision making when it comes to vulnerable children.

“Because it’s a national system, information won’t be overlooked.  It will improve intervention and more efficient and reliable information sharing,” he said.

The project will connect emergency departments, out of hours GP services, walk-in centres, paediatric wards, maternity wards, minor injury units and ambulance services with IT systems used in local authorities’ child protection systems.

This means that when a child who has a child protection plan in place, or a ‘child looked after’ status, goes into A&E, an indicator flag will automatically appear, informing staff that this is a child at risk.

NHS staff will also be able to see if a child has recently visited another A&E department in the country.

The business case for the system was approved last year and the aim is to have most NHS trusts using the fully integration system by 2018.

“In the next few months, we will have started engagement with about 80 organisations for the second wave,” said Burnett.

“By the end of the roll-out we want 152 local authorities and 1200 unscheduled care settings to connect.”

The system will be delivered on the NHS national Spine replacement, ‘Spine 2’, which has caused some delay to the initial delivery due to the scale and complexity of the migration for the new spine service.

Local authority IT systems suppliers will make changes to their systems in order to send a specific set of child protection data sets to the spine.

NHS trusts can then view the information via a web browser, or make changes to IT systems in order to integrate the system into their patient administration system or electronic patient record to automatically pick up information.

Burnett also said that a supplier liaison group has been formed to “ensure suppliers have a voice and a mechanism to provide feedback throughout the development and delivery of the project.”