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Tim Loughton, the Children's Minister, has warned that health services are not sufficiently integrated with child protection agencies.
In a speech to the annual Safeguarding London's Children Conference today, Mr Loughton said that a fragmented health and child protection system makes it difficult for doctors to spot child abuse. He criticised the government's plans to split up the 10 strategic health authorities and 151 primary care trusts by handing the responsibility to groups of GPs.
"There is a problem now," Mr Loughton said. "There will be potentially more of a problem, unless it is addressed, with a more fragmented health service because of GP commissioning."
He said the Government's planned replacement for the controversial children's database, ContactPoint, would allow child protection agencies and health professionals to spot instances of "hospital shopping" and keep a record of vulnerable children when they move out of a local authority area.
"If you have a six-year old who turns up at 9 o'clock on Friday evening with suspicious bruising, with a parent - that will be handled very differently from one hospital to another: some doing it very well, some not doing it well.
"We have got urgently to address those weaknesses now," the minister said.
"I think we need a system that logs that one child has presented at one hospital and then three weeks later has presented at another hospital," he explained. "That will trigger someone seeing that something is not quite right.
"Similarly, if there is a child who is on the books in Sunderland and their family ups sticks and moves to Brighton we need that to be centrally logged so that the director of children's services in Brighton can get onto the database and go and have a conversation with the director of children's services in Sunderland."
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