Data on vulnerable children is to be shared with school nurses and health visitors to better protect those most at risk of harm during the coronavirus lockdown.
NHS Digital’s Child Protection Information Sharing (CP-IS) tool alerts NHS staff when children subject to a child protection plan, children designated as ‘looked after’ and pregnant women who have an unborn child protection plan present in A&E or another unscheduled care setting.
The alerts are also shared with the child’s social worker to ensure a joined-up approach to care.
The system is now being “urgently” amended to ensure school nurses and health visitors have the same information, NHS Digital said.
The information will be sent via their clinical system from the NHS Spine. A pilot is set to be live in London within a week before being rolled out nationally.
Martin Dennys, programme director at NHS Digital, said: “We know that a deeply concerning potential unintended consequence of the current regulations in place to try and keep people at home to save lives is that vulnerable children already at risk of being abused are even more at risk.
“We are working around the clock to extend the crucial information shared through Child Protection Information Sharing to school nurses and health visitors as quickly as possible, to provide what could be a crucial extra layer of information and protection at a time when local arrangements for such data-sharing may be difficult to administer.”
Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, added: “This vital information sharing is particularly welcome at a time when the coronavirus lockdown is exposing the challenges of keeping the most vulnerable children safe.
“These children can be exposed to a cocktail of secondary risks – lack of food in the house, cramped living conditions or neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse and parental mental health problems.
“At a time of unprecedented pressure on the services which are there to protect children, it is more important than ever that every tool is used to identify and help those who are most at risk.”
The extension of the service was due to be introduced by 2023 but has been brought forward as part of NHS Digital’s response to coronavirus.
A data provision notice (DPN) has been issued to notify local authorities that NHS Digital will be collecting and sharing the data. It is not expected to place any additional burden on local authorities or NHS staff.
A letter has been sent to all local authority directors of children’s services explaining the new functionality to them.