Thursday, 27 December 2012

New IT for A&E

The introduction of a new computer system for use in hospital accident and emergency departments (A&E) in England is to be cautiously welcomed.

I have previously suggested that such a system – which provides access to information about whether a child is subject to a child protection plan - might be a worthy successor to ContactPoint, which I believe was wholly misconceived.

But those responsible for the new database must not claim too much for it and they must resist the temptation to elaborate it. Keeping it simple is essential. And it should be UK wide, not simply confined to England.

Why do I support this system when I was very opposed to ContactPoint? This system deals with simple factual information – whether a child has been made the subject of a child protection plan, whether a child is in care – and should contain only details of children who meet these criteria. ContactPoint concerned all children and it was spuriously claimed that being able to see patterns in child/agency involvement was an indicator of risk.

Lisa Harker of the NSPCC is spot on when she says that it is people who protect children, not IT systems. An IT system can support professional practice if its objectives are simple and clear, but don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that it can take decisions or even suggest courses of action.