14 November 2017

Why information sharing is integral to child health


Andy Spencer

It is essential that children are supported in their physical and emotional development from their very first cries through to their teenage years. As a paediatrician, I want to ensure that every child receives the very best start in life, supported by both health and care professionals.

The Healthy Child Programme, which is commissioned by local authorities, aims to prevent illness and empowers parents to get involved in their child's health and development. By ensuring that every child has access to a programme of screening tests, immunisations and advice, common infectious diseases and other problems can be prevented. Each child is provided with a personal child health record (PCHR) which offers practical health advice, as well as recording the child's progress. Each time a child accesses the programme from birth onwards, information is recorded. As many different health professionals are involved in delivering these activities, information about a child's progress or difficulties has been stored in many different systems, sometimes using paper records and sometimes electronic. As a consequence, professionals may not always have up to date information when dealing with a child, leading to the possibility that important aspects of the programme may be missed.

Working with NHS England and NHS Digital, the Professional Record Standards Body has developed a new standard for recording information about the Healthy Child Programme. This new standard has been published in final draft form following extensive consultation with many different professional groups involved in caring for children including paediatricians, health visitors, midwifes, GPs, speech and language therapists to name just a few. Most important of all are parents, who have fully engaged in the consultation process. Recording data in a standardised way means that it can be shared between all professionals with a legitimate role in caring for the child and with parents in an electronic version of the PCHR (ePCHR). Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the parents always know who is accessing their child's data and for what purpose.

Making data about children accessible and shared is key to ensuring that children get maximum benefit from the Healthy Child Programme and that ill health is prevented whenever possible. Furthermore, it assists professionals in doing their jobs effectively, maximises the use of limited health resources and can be used for research purposes, to develop better care in future.

Why implementation is key

For the Healthy Child Programme to be successful, implementation of this standard is absolutely essential. Positive results can only happen if there is a widespread cultural change in the way we share information digitally in both health and social care settings. As professionals who support the health and wellbeing of children, we must work together to highlight the importance of proper information sharing as it will support everything from primary and secondary care to future research into innovative treatments.

For more information about the digital child health strategy information standard, please contact info@theprsb.org or visit our website at www.theprsb.org/standards where you can also find out more about how to implement the standard and how it can benefit you and the children you provide care for.

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