Thursday, 3 January 2013

Second thoughts about IT for A&E?

Since writing my recent post cautiously welcoming the new IT system for A&E I have been quite impressed by some of the arguments against the system! 

A letter in the Guardian from Dr Richard Turner makes a good point that a possible “… unintended consequence that worried parents will delay or avoid seeking a medical opinion” is an obvious risk.

A similar point is made elsewhere by someone with whom I do not often agree, Frank Ferudi.

I think that it is sensible that people treating a child in A&E should know whether the child is subject to a child protection plan. Surely that’s what we hope to achieve by such a plan – that all professionals coming into contact with the child will be aware that this is a child believed to be at risk. And it is essential that medical professionals are aware that a child is in care, because the local authority has parental rights.

So a simple database containing these facts can be justified. 

The problems come when considering what else the proposed IT system will do, and sadly the reports I have read are a bit vague about this. Any form of crude flagging based on total visits to A&E strikes me as both silly and potentially dangerous. That might easily cause people to think twice about taking an injured child to hospital.

I hope this is not what is proposed, but experience of NHS, in particular, and government IT projects, in general, always makes me cautious and pessimistic.