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Social workers to access new child health record

By Nigel Praities

Exclusive: A new comprehensive electronic health record is planned for all children, to be accessible by GPs, nurses and even social workers, Pulse has learned.

But the ambitious Connecting for Health proposals have prompted concerns among some doctors at the prospect of broadening access to sensitive information about young people.

In a potentially major extension to the rollout of its controversial Summary Care Record, the organisation is looking to integrate a wide variety of information on children from GP records, emergency admissions, secondary care visits and social care records.

Access to this ‘standard child health record' would be open to parents, NHS and social care employees, and other Government agencies.

Stephen Smith, programme manager for child health at Connecting for Health, said it wanted a ‘seamless service'.

He added: ‘The Summary Care Record is not going to solve everything. We are looking at how information about a child's health status can be shared more effectively.'

He said vaccination records were a ‘good candidate' for inclusion in the records, which might also contain information about whether a child had had checks associated with inclusion on the Child Protection Register or treatment from a school nurse.

But Dr Syed Ahmed, a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Greater Glasgow Clyde and an adviser on vaccination to the Department of Health, said access to sensitive information about children – such as from the Child Protection Register – should be strictly controlled.

‘Clearly Connecting for Health has to be careful who has access to this information, and that it is only accessed by people who have a legitimate need to know,' he warned.

Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, and a veteran campaigner on IT, said the concept was ‘fundamentally flawed' and ‘completely wipes away' the right to privacy between doctors and their patients or carers.

‘Very often people tell their GP information they don't want their care or social worker to know,' he said. ‘It will end up inhibiting people so they won't tell us information and we won't be able to intervene appropriately.'

npraities@cmpmedica.com

Hoping to avoid previous pitfalls

The National Programme for IT Child Health Programme plans to give health and social care agencies powers to formulate wide-ranging records for all children.

But Connecting for Health will be hoping its plans fare better than a previous debacle over a more limited vaccination records programme.

Implemented across London in 2005 to track childhood immunisations, it was blamed for plunging vaccine uptake levels and later scrapped.

Record to contain comprehensive information on child health and welfare Record to contain comprehensive information on child health and welfare

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