BOLTON is leading the way in making sure vulnerable children are kept safe with a pioneering data-sharing initiative.

The Children's Commissioner for England visited the Royal Bolton Hospital on Friday and praised its work along with Bolton Council.

Anne Longfield OBE met nursing staff in the maternity unit and was shown how Child Protection Information Sharing works in practice.

The project links up databases of councils with NHS organisations so that if a child under the care or supervision of a social worker attends an unscheduled care setting such as an A&E or walk in centre, the IT system alerts nurses that they are dealing with a vulnerable child and automatically sends a notification to the child's social worker.

It is in operation at Royal Bolton Hospital across A&E and the maternity unit and at Bolton Council, who were among the first across Greater Manchester to implement it last year.

Previously most councils had safeguarding agreements in place with hospitals in the area but there was no national system to alert social workers to A&E visits being made by children under their care beyond the boundaries of the local authority.

Fiona Farnworth, named nurse safeguarding children at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Children’s Commissioner today. The CP-IS system enhances what we were already doing to protect vulnerable children, born and unborn, here in Bolton.

“The benefit of being able to share information more effectively is that it can flag up looked after children who live out of the borough who may be in connection with social services.

“The system doesn’t replace professional curiosity - staff are fully trained in safeguarding procedures and what to look out for. This provides a more joined-up approach.”

The initiative has been introduce to act as an extra layer of protection for vulnerable children to try to stop cases of abuse where children are taken to different unscheduled care settings by their abuser in an attempt to avoid authorities noticing a pattern emerging.

CPIS means social workers and NHS staff have the complete picture about the children in their care and they can intervene early when necessary.

Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “This is an innovative and important system for helping to protect vulnerable children by identifying patterns of abuse or neglect and encouraging early intervention.

“We know from some of the most tragic cases that when health and children’s professionals aren’t sharing information or don’t know about patterns of potential abuse that things can go very wrong.

“I want to see every local authority and every NHS organisation with an unscheduled care setting implementing this system as soon as possible.”

Last month, the system sent over 3,600 notifications from NHS sites to social workers – a 115 per cent increase on 6 months previously.