Directors call for strong leadership to hasten move to electronic records

English councils are facing significant barriers to implementing electronic social care records including a reluctance among front-line staff in moving away from paper-based records, a survey has found.

The poll, commissioned by the former Association of Directors of Social Services and answered by 134 of the 150 councils, found 94 per cent of authorities had partially implemented electronic case management systems, but there were several barriers to full implementation.

An original target for implementing the electronic social care record (ESCR) for adults by October 2006 was quietly dropped by the Department of Health. Meanwhile last November, the Department for Education and Skills found many authorities were far from implementing its children’s equivalent – the integrated children’s system (ICS) – by a target of January 2007.

David Johnstone (pictured), who leads on the issue for the new Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “We’ve still got problems of culture from front-line staff in moving to electronic from paper records.”

He said tackling this required strong leadership, but added that the survey also found that in almost one-third of councils less than half of staff were directly inputting case data on to the system.

Johnstone added: “Practitioners would still be using paper-based processes and would then pass these to administrative staff for inputting the data.”

A key barrier was the lack of integration by the government between the ESCR for adults, the ICS and other IT systems for children’s services introduced under the Children Act 2004, and NHS care records.

He said: “The longer it goes on without a national framework to coordinate these initiatives the higher the probability that it will become difficult [to integrate them].”

Johnstone said this was not due to different technologies but due to different standards of data management being applied to each, which prevented them from being linked up at a time when government policy was backing integrated services.

He said: “The NHS has very strict standards in terms of confidentiality. You don’t have these in the DfES for children’s services so the NHS will say ‘we won’t give you access’.”

The ADASS will consider the issue at its executive meeting later this month and is then likely to call for a national framework for care records standards.

Care records and assessment systems

● Electronic social care record
Integrated children’s system 
Contact Point
Electronic common assessment framework
Electronic single assessment process for older people
NHS Care Records Service

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  Mithran Samuel



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