All children who are taken to hospital A&E departments, urgent care centres or who have out-of-hours GP consultations will be cross-checked against a national database in a crackdown on child abuse. The Government wants all hospitals to be using the system by 2015.
The system is designed to help doctors and nurses spot children who are suffering from abuse or neglect and avoid cases like that of baby Peter Connelly.
Medical staff will be able to see if the children they treat are subject to a child protection plan or are being looked after by the local authority, meaning they are already identified as being at risk. Doctors and nurses will also be able to check if a child has been a frequent visitor to different A&E or urgent care departments over a period of time; which could be an indication of abuse or neglect.
At the moment, it is difficult to tell if children have frequently had urgent treatment. However, knowing about the urgent care they have received can be important for spotting abuse, particularly if the child has suspicious injuries like bruising, scratches, bite marks and burns.
Under the new system, when a child arrives and is logged in at an A&E or urgent care centre, a flag will appear on the child's record if they are subject to a protection plan or are being looked after by the local authority.
Doctors and nurses will be able to use this information as part of their overall clinical assessment, along with any information about the child having previously received urgent treatment.
This will help them build-up a better picture of what is happening in the child's life so they can alert social services if they think something might be wrong.