EMIS unveils tailored software system for children's centres

14 Jul 2006

Leading primary care IT supplier EMIS demonstrated a new system to help in care of the under-fives during a recent visit by health secretary Patricia Hewitt to Leicester.

The Leeds-based company, which currently provides software for 55 per cent of GPs in the UK, is offering an adapted version of its PCS system to the 3,500 children’s centres that the government is opening between now and 2010. The centres aim to work with parents and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of the under fives.

Now, thanks to innovations by EMIS, the centres can have access to an IT system that helps them establish a comprehensive client database and clinical information system – similar to the patient record system that EMIS operates in GP surgeries.

During her visit, Ms Hewitt heard how the system has been working during a four-year pilot project in the city. EMIS teamed up with the Beaumont Leys and Stocking Farm Sure Start children’s centres on a successful trial of the new system. The company hopes children’s centres will take it up across the UK.

Ms Hewitt learned first hand from EMIS and Sure Start staff about the benefits that the tailored system has brought to the projects at a ‘day of achievement’ to celebrate the work of Beaumont Leys and Stocking Farm.

Justin Murr, regional operations director with EMIS said: “EMIS was delighted to make the secretary of state aware of what our systems can achieve in this type of setting.

“When the children’s centres first began to appear we were quick to realise the potential benefits of our GP software systems for this emerging sector. We looked at what adaptations we would need to make to our existing system to ensure it could meet the specific needs of Sure Start children’s centres like Beaumont Leys and Stocking Farm in Leicester.

“Working with them we launched a pilot scheme in 2002. This followed extensive consultation with staff to identify what they wanted the system to do. We then developed templates that were specific to the requirements of Sure Start centres and the types of consultations and sessions they provide.

“The result is a system that offers staff an easy way to input information relating to Sure Start clients. It can also be adapted to meet the needs of the other developing children’s centres.”

Ann Marshall programme manager at Sure Start Beaumont Leys said: “For our Sure Start scheme to succeed it was crucial that we put in place a data collection system to enable us to collate baseline information against which we could measure progress against targets.

“It was also vital that we had a system in place that facilitates multi-agency and multi-disciplinary working – it needed to allow us to share information between different professionals and volunteers working with the children and their carers.

“The system that EMIS developed with us has enabled us to do all of this. We now have access to accurate data that we can use to inform service delivery and planning. And it provides us with tangible evidence to evaluate our services and assess our progress against specific targets.

“The system has also helped us deliver a culture change in our approach to IT. Staff have been able to boost their skills and it has demonstrated to them the value of clinical data collection in their day-to-day work.”

Plans are now in place to install EMIS systems in Sure Start children’s centres throughout Leicestershire following an agreement between Leicester City Council and the local Health Informatics Service. The agreement means EMIS will be the provider of choice for any client database system for local Sure Start children’s centres.

Justin Murr adds: “This successful pilot in Leicester has proved to us that EMIS systems can bring major benefits to Sure Start centres. The system can be easily tailored to meet specific user needs.

“The next few years will see a huge expansion of this sector and EMIS plans to be at the forefront of efforts to meet their information technology needs. We are currently in the process of demonstrating and promoting the benefits of the system to a number of local authorities across the UK.”