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Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans for all babies born from April 2023 to have a digital health record.
Currently, parents are given a paper-based record, known as “the red book”, when a child is born. The book contains the child’s weight measurements, growth charts, vaccinations and developmental milestones.
It is kept by the parents, who have the responsibility of bringing it to the child’s GP and hospital appointments, as well as health visitor visits.
This comes after an early years review, entitled The best start for life: A vision for the 1,001 critical days, led by early years health adviser Andrea Leadsom.
The review found that children living in households in the lowest socio-economic groups have significantly worse health outcomes than other children. It sets out six action areas, including a digital red book.
It also includes designing digital, virtual and telephone services around the needs of the family, and creating an NHS branded “one-stop shop” online where they can access all the information they need.
The government originally had a 2024 target of digitising the red book, but following the review the target has been moved forward to make sure families have all the information they need, as well as easy access to their children’s data which can be shared with health professionals.
Hancock said every child “should have a solid foundation on which to build their health, and we are determined to level up the opportunities for children, no matter their background or where they grow up”.
“I want to thank Andrea Leadsom for this inspirational and important report. Through her action areas, we will reduce the barriers and improve early childhood experiences – and we’re already making a start by bringing forward our commitment to digitise the red book by April 2023.”
The government first began the project to digitise the red book in 2012, and several pilots were undertaken in some parts of the country. Originally, the plan was to introduce a digital red book nationally in 2016, but the project has taken longer than planned. However, it is in use in some parts of the country.
In November 2016, the government’s Healthy children report set out plans for a digital child health transformation programme, which included plans for the digital red book.
“A new, electronic personal child health record will enable parents, carers and healthcare professionals to update and access information digitally. It will be the first step in providing modern, responsive services for children,” the programme vision said at the time.
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