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3.7.10 S-Flagging on NHS Database of Looked After Children

What is S-Flagging?

The NHS database in England is known as the National Spine. All children who are registered with a General Practitioner have their demographic details entered on a component part of the National Spine - the Personal Demographics Service (PDS). It is expected that 99.9% of the nation's population will be on this system. Local health systems now have access to the PDS database. Hillingdon Community Health's local data system is called RiO and this system allows staff to access the PDS. All demographic details are therefore visible to any NHS member of staff both locally and nationally.

Although all NHS staff are bound by confidentiality, it has been recognised that a small number of children may require extra protection from unauthorised access to the National Spine e.g. adoption cases, trafficked children and domestic abuse.

There is an option to apply for a child's records to be S-Flagged (although not always granted). What this means is that a request is made to the child's GP, or in some cases Social Services or the Police can apply to the National Back Office to Flag a record as Sensitive i.e. that when a child's record is accessed on PDS, that the address, telephone numbers and GP details of the child are not displayed. It is important to recognise that the majority of looked after children's records do not need to be S-Flagged.

In cases where children are particularly vulnerable:

  • The social worker should consider this option when completing the care plan, particularly when planning placements, where there is a need to prevent disclosure of the details of the child's placement;
  • When children are being placed for adoption, the S-Flagging process should also be applied during planning for permanence (at the pre-adoption stage).

To action this:

  • The child's social worker should make an application for the child's records to be S-Flagged via the National Back Office;
  • A form will need to be completed and signed by someone with Parental Responsibility. (see attached form);
  • Send the form back to the National Back Office who will consider the request and S-Flag the records as necessary;
  • To check that the records have been S-Flagged, the social worker should send an email to request this information to the The social worker should allow 48 hours before checking with the LAC health team that this has been actioned.