NHS trusts in Cumbria can now make electronic referrals to social care services if they believe a child is at risk.

The child safeguarding e-referral system is developed by Strata Health and is currently available at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Both can send referrals to the Cumbria County Council’s children’s services department. The system will expand to include North Cumbria Acute Hospitals in the spring.

Heather McFarlane, strategic lead for child safeguarding and protection at the Cumbria Partnership said the system would cut the time it takes to refer a child who may need social care from two hours to ten minutes.

She said: “The treatment and patient pathway is tracked, consistent and audited all which improves the outcomes and safety of some of our most vulnerable patients.

“This will allow for the most appropriate course of action to be put in place faster and more efficiently, improving the outcomes for the child and the family involved.”

Cumbria has an ambitious IT strategy, led by e-Health Cumbria and the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, that includes a bespoke resource matching and e-referral system from Strata Health, known locally as ‘air traffic control.’

It is intended to integrate with electronic record systems in use in acute, mental health and community providers, and GP systems, while other providers, such as care-homes, will be able to get web-based access.

John Roebuck, interim programme director for IM&T at Cumbria CCG, told EHI News the system is already able to operate with the Lorenzo electronic patient record system in place at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Plans are in place to integrate with the RealTime system in North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, EMIS Web GP and community systems, Adastra for out of hours services,  the RiO EPR at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for children's and mental health services, and with Cumbria County Council’s Liquidlogic adult and children’s social care system.

“The more integrated the system is, the more sophisticated it becomes; but it can still be used as a standalone service,” said Roebuck, who added there are further plans to implement the service at the Cumbrian police service and with drug and alcohol services.

The Department of Health’s ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards: Technology Fund’, commonly known as tech fund 1, invested in the e-referrals project, to extend the roll-out during 2015.

Support is being provided by the North East and North Cumbria Academic Health Science Network, which is paying for the system to be rolled out into hospices and care homes.

The North West Coast Academic Health Science Network is supporting the introduction of e-referrals into South Cumbria and North Lancashire for patients using University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay for inpatient services supported by Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Fylde and Wyre NHS Foundation Trust, Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.

Tech fund 1 also found £10 million for Cumbria Partnership to do a deal with Bull IT to improve IT infrastructure and with Servelec Healthcare to implement the RiO electronic patient record.