Online conferencing might be the answerBMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1777 (Published 23 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1777
All rapid responses
I wonder if Mills  has ever attempted the online conferencing for
child protection that he proposes? Over the last 20 years I have been
involved in various synchonous discussions, using technologies ranging
from post-it stickers on walls, to phones, to videolinkage, to wikis, to
international online debates. A handful of good friends in a
videoconference has sometimes agreed a decision. Bringing invisible
strangers from diverse professions and services synchronously together
online can stimulate the imagination but is definitely not a recipe for
agreement on actions.
Initially, ContactPoint was supposed to provide 'faster, more co-
ordinated support' for professionals in agencies working with children on
some 'sensitive' issues, but after hundreds of millions of pounds and many
broken spirits, it was finally abandoned. Accounts of synchronous
multi-user access were hard to come by, and the functionality was much
less than a "traditional" child protection conference. The latest
update (19 January 2011) on the National eCAF system promised 'secure,
fast information sharing' and for some purposes there may be optimism...
but it is vital for General Practitioners to realise "the CAF process is
not a 'referral' process but a 'request for services'" and "families do
not have to engage". In a rapidly evolving, high risk situation, this
reduces its online value to child protection!
The secret of the 'Team Around the Child' philosophy is its aim to
help practitioners come together, to decide a course of action. The
Children's Workforce Development Council found this requires a human 'lead
professional to coordinate the work'. One model of a clinician in a lead
professional role for child protection was recently produced by Walker.
 Mills C. GPs and child protection. Online conferencing might be
the answer. BMJ 2011; 342:d1777
 Loughton T. Written ministerial statement on decommissioning
ContactPoint. Department for Education, 22 July 2010.
 Department for Education. The CAF process. 8 March 2011 update.
 Walker S. Swamped by despair? bmj.com Rapid Response, 8 March
Competing interests: Was involved in various online projects, including a shared-access electronic database for vulnerable children funded by the Invest to Save Budget. Also involved in teaching for Lead Professionals supporting children with disabilities.