NHS pledges new child health info system by next Christmas

NHS Connecting for Health has promised that a new child health information system will be rolled out by the end of next year after the London Assembly warned that poor data collection had contributed to the capital’s worryingly low immunisation rates.

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NHS Connecting for Health has promised that a new child health information system will be rolled out by the end of next year after the London Assembly warned that poor data collection had contributed to the capital’s worryingly low immunisation rates.

A London Assembly report warns that just 52% of the capital’s children are fully immunised against measles, mumps and rubella, compared with 74% across the country.

It identified “major problems with the quality of data collection systems” as a key factor. The Child Health Interim Application (CHIA) introduced in 10 primary care trusts in 2005 “does not allow Primary Care Trusts to automatically appoint children for immunisation, nor does it produce reports of children who have not yet been immunised”, it said.

Elizabeth Howlett, deputy chair of the assembly’s health and public services committee, said: “One of the major problems in London is that for 10 primary care trusts, responsible for nearly half a million children, there is no accurate data for 2005-06.

“The implementation of a new data collection system – the Child Health Interim Application – in these boroughs was mishandled from the very beginning and has undone a lot of good local work to improve immunisation rates.”

The assembly report, which echoed findings by the Health Protection Agency last year, added that the RiO system being rolled out by NHS contractor BT as a replacement for CHIA “suffers from some of the same drawbacks” and is also unable to make appointments automatically or recall children who have missed their jabs.

It called on NHS Connecting for Health to provide a clear timetable for the roll-out of an enhanced, fully functional version of RiO that would allow data sharing across PCTs to cope with the mobility of London’s population.

A Connecting for Health London spokesperson said migration to RiO would take place by December 2008 – a timetable set “at the request of PCTs”.

She added: “The migration from one child health system to another is complex and we will incorporate the lessons learnt from CHIA in our managed and planned process.”

CHIA had been “delivered as a stopgap measure” when the previous Child Health Monitoring System was withdrawn by its supplier at short notice, she said.

Automatic appointment scheduling and an electronic link with Great Ormond Street's newborn blood spot screening programme would be included in RiO’s functions “when the first trusts migrate from CHIA to RIO early next year”, the spokesperson promised.

Work was also under way to deliver a datasharing capability between organisations using RiO in London, she said.

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