Child Abuse: New Database Of Medical Visits

Liz Lane, Sky News Reporter

A national database is being introduced in hospitals to flag up potential vulnerable children to nurses and doctors.

It is in order to prevent cases similar to that of Baby Peter Connelly in which health and social service workers repeatedly failed to pick up on signs that the toddler was being abused.

He died of multiple injuries in August 2007.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter is behind the system and said: "For many years there's been a problem of getting joined-up and co-ordinated information to front-line healthcare professionals about children that may be potentially at risk from abuse."

Under the system, a flag will appear on the child's medical record at any hospital they attend if they have already been identified by a local authority as being at risk, or if they have frequently been taken to accident and emergency departments.

Currently, this sort of information is not shared between hospitals up and down the country.

Dr Simon Eccles, of Homerton Hospital in east London, believes it will help doctors make better judgements.

"Spotting those characteristic injury patterns that tell you a child has been abused is one thing," he said, "but what's much harder is the child whose injuries are completely understandable but actually have just been happening too often."

Lauren Matthews, whose nine-year-old son Leo has been in hospital recently, told Sky News she has her concerns: "Two weeks ago we had to take him to hospital because his friend closed his hand in the door. And then yesterday we had to come into hospital again because he had an asthma attack, so in certain situations it could be taken out of context."

Doctors say the system will only deal in facts and they will objectively assess each case.

Work will begin on it in early 2013 and it will start to be introduced to NHS hospitals in 2015.