Hospital can help prevent child abuse

THE Conquest Hospital could end up playing a key role in protecting children who are at risk of abuse or neglect.

Along with other hospitals across the UK it will be involved in the planned £9 million Chuild Protection Information System.

The system, which will be rolled out in 2015, will alert doctors and nurses in accident and emergency departments if children are known to be at risk or had urgent treatment at other hospitals.

Ministers claim it will lead to abuse being indentified at an earlier stage and prevent tragedies such as that of Baby P and Victoria Climbie, who died as a result of child abuse.

Under the new system, children arriving at a hospital accident and emergency or urgent care centre will be checked on the NHS computer system.

That will clarify whether the youngster is on the register for children considered to be at risk, or in council care.

The system is also intended to make it easier for doctors and nurses to see if patients had other emergency admissions elsewhere in the country.

Ministers say by giving professionals the wider picture, abuse can be identified earlier.

Health minister Dan Poulter said the scheme should give professionals “the best tools for the job”.

“Up until now, it has been hard for frontline healthcare professionals to know if a child is already listed as being at risk or if children have been repeatedly seen in different emergency departments or urgent care centres with suspicious injuries or complaints, which may indicate abuse,” he said.

“Providing instant access to that information means vulnerable and abused children will be identified much more quickly - which will save lives.”

Dr Simon Eccles, a consultant in emergency medicine at Homerton Hospital in London who helped set up the scheme, said innocent parents or carers would not come under suspicion.

He said “It’s quite straightforward I hope, most of the time, to ascertain whether this is just a child who is beautifully looked after but tends to play rough, or this is a child who is not ever being watched when they play and tend to hurt themselves.”

Dr Eccles said that if a member of the clinical team - a nurse, doctor or paediatrician - made a judgement call and believes a child could be at risk, they could each escalate it “up the ladder”, which could ultimately result in a visit to the home.

“This database is not trying to solve the entire problem but simply adding another layer of information that previously was hard to get,” he added.

Some charities have also raised concerns.

They say simply sharing information alone will not be enough without better training for medical professionals to spot abuse.

A national flagging system was a key recommendation of the Laming report which came out in 2003, which followed Victoria Climbie’s death in 2000.

At least one child dies in England every week from abuse or neglect. Most are babies and young children who are unable to speak about what is happening to them.