NHS Digital to push back targets for Child Protection Information Sharing scheme

Written by Rebecca Hill on 5 May 2017 in News
News

Board papers reveal a lack of sufficient funding for the plan and that original business case underestimated time for software suppliers to gain accreditation

NHS Digital has pushed back target milestones on the Child Protection Information Scheme - Photo credit: Flickr

NHS Digital has agreed to extend the delivery milestones for its scheme to help health and social care organisations share information on vulnerable children, with the delay estimated to cost an extra £2m.

The Child Protection - Information Sharing programme, which was launched in December 2012, aims to target child abusers that take an ill child to a different care providers across geographical boundaries to avoid raising suspicion.

It covers children under protection schemes that are taken for unscheduled NHS care, for instance at Accident and Emergencies, walk-in centres or GP out of hours services.

There are 1,200 care settings that the scheme will have to cover, across 152 local authorities - and NHS Digital had planned to achieve 80% coverage for both of these by March 2018.

However, according to the latest NHS Digital board papers, it is now clear that these were “too optimistic”, and the board has agreed to push them back by a year.


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Papers from the 3 May 2017 board meeting - published online this week - show that, as of 31 March 2017, the proportion of local authorities using the system was just 30%, while the coverage of NHS organisations was just 10%.

The board agreed to a set of revised targets, which aims to have 65% of local authorities on the system by 31 March 2018 and 90% signed up the year after, and 45% NHS organisations signed up next year, and 80% the year after.

This is not the first time the targets have had to be revised - the Health and Social Care Information Centre (the former name of NHS Digital) had initially targeted 80% local authority coverage by December 2015 - however it had only reached 13% by that date.

The latest extension of the programme by a year is estimated to cost £2.1m, which the NHS Digital board papers said would be evaluated and approved after it had drawn up a “Tolerance Exception Report” to gain approval for the extra funds.

The project was originally costed at £8.6m, which was then reduced to £6.77m in the final business case, to run to March 2018. To 31 March 2017 the total spend had been £5.8m.

The NHS Digital board papers reveal that, in the original business case, there was a “lack of sufficient funding for implementation, both resources and financial incentives”.

There were funds for social care suppliers to bring the Child Protection - Information Service into their systems, it said, but none for NHS suppliers or local authorities, and none for any changes to business processes or project management.

“The original case also underestimated the number of project implementation resources required, which was increased in 2016 and has contributed to increased deployment,” the board papers said.

“This situation has been exacerbated by subsequent Local Authority reductions in funding and NHS winter pressures.”

The papers said that the project would still face the challenge of competing for “already scarce resources in business change, project management and IT teams, in both local authorities and NHS sites”.

NHS Digital said that it was aiming to mitigate against this with national and regional engagement plans through a revised communications strategy, recruiting champions to promote the programme and appointing ambassadors to try and speed up implementation.

The papers added that it was considering running a funding scheme for implementation following the evaluation of an initial fund that was launched with £350,000 in January 2016.

Meanwhile, the papers also identified technical challenges that faced the project, saying that it took longer for software suppliers to develop their solution and gain accreditation than originally estimated.

In addition there were some other technical challenges, such as changes to the NHS Spine configuration and the requirement that organisations had to have a connection to the NHS N3 network.

The board papers said that NHS Digital was “working closely with suppliers” on the accreditation process, as well as working with other NHS Digital teams on information governance and clinical safety and solutions assurance, to ensure that supplier solutions are robust and safe.

According to NHS Digital, there are now more than 59,000 children on the system, and it has generated more than 10,000 notifications to social workers since April 2015 - around 1,000 month notifications - which have offered additional protection to vulnerable children.​

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