NHS Dorset has a major role in ensuring the timely and effective delivery of health services to children in care and care leavers, it is required to do so under section 10 of the Children Act 2004.

A designated doctor and nurse are employed as strategic leads to advise and assist NHS Dorset, other commissioners of health services and local authorities within their area accommodating children and young people in fulfilling their responsibilities to improve the health of looked-after children.

Notification for children in care being place in Dorset process

NHS Dorset has a dedicated medical service commissioned through University Hospitals Dorset who complete all initial health assessments (IHA’s). The Children in Care Health Teams commissioned through Dorset Healthcare (Community Trust) are collocated within the two local authorities within the county of Dorset. They are able to support the health needs of children and young people accommodated by either Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) and Dorset Council (DC) or placed in Dorset by other local authorities.

The medical service are able to complete initial health assessments for children placed in Dorset by other local authorities under a service level agreement.

These can be requested by sending the appropriate paperwork by secure email to LAC, Poole Hospital or by post (recorded delivery) to this address:

A/O Hannah Stokes LAC Administrator/Medical Secretary
Children in Care Administrator/Support Secretary
Child Development Centre
Poole Hospital
0300 019 3346

We suggest that you make prior contact by telephone first to 0300 019 3346. The medical service will return the SLA for agreement and an outline of their process to complete and return.

The children in care health teams are able to complete review health assessments.

These can be requested by sending the appropriate paperwork by secure email to CiC, Dorset Healthcare:

A/O Dorset Healthcare Children in Care and Care Experienced Young People Health Team
01305 361127

We suggest that you make prior contact by telephone first to 01305 361127. The Children in Care Health Team will provide an outline of their process to complete and return.

Commissioned providers

NHS Dorset commission services for children in care through University Hospitals Dorset and Dorset HealthCare.

University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) delivers the medical services for children in care. This consists of a designated doctor who works closely with the designated nurse in supporting the health agenda for children in care, a named doctor and medical advisors who together complete all initial health assessments (IHAs) pan-Dorset. They also complete adoption medicals for children and review and give advice on adult medicals for adopters and foster carer’s and act as medical advisor for aspire adoption, adoption panel.

Dorset Healthcare (DHC) delivers direct nursing services to all children in care and care leavers residing in Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole (BCP) and Dorset. They do this by supporting the IHA process and completing the statutory review health assessments. They deliver preventative and direct implementations to address identified health needs for our children in care & care experienced population, provide training to local authorities, health professionals, and foster carer’s and parents on the health needs of children in care. They work closely alongside social care, joint funded dedicated child and adolescent’s mental health service (CAMHS) for children in care, their carer’s and professionals.

Who is a child in care

The term “children in care” refers to a child who is being looked after by the state (local authority). The term has a specific legal meaning based on the Children Act 1989. They may also be known as a looked after child, or child looked after.

Children who are “looked after” may be living:

  • With foster parents

  • At home with their parents under the supervision of social services

  • In residential children’s homes

  • Other residential settings like schools or secure units

  • Be placed away from home on a planned basis for short breaks or respite care

  • Living with supported lodging carer’s if post 16 years

  • Semi-independent living post 16 years

  • Independent living post 16 years

Children in care are children and young people (0 to 18 years rising to 25 years for care leavers or where there is an Education and Health Care plan in place). They may have been placed in care voluntarily by parents struggling to cope, or, by children’s services who may have intervened because a child was at significant risk of harm, neglect or exploitation.

A “looked after child” legal status is defined by the Children’s Act 1989 which means they may be accommodated under a Voluntarily Order (Sec. 20 of Children Act) or a Care Order (Sec. 31 of Children Act).

The number of looked after children nationally has continued to rise; it has increased steadily over the last eight years. There were 80,850 looked after children at 31 March 2021, an increase of 1% compared to 31 March 2020 and a 15% increase from 2016.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 places a legal duty on Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to work with local authorities to promote the integration of health and social care services.

The Mandate to NHS England, Statutory Guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies and The NHS Constitution for England, make clear the responsibilities of ICBs and NHS England to looked-after children (and, by extension, to care leavers).

In fulfilling these responsibilities, NHS Dorset contributes to meeting the health needs of looked-after children in three ways:

  • Commissioning effective services

  • Delivering through provider organisations

  • Through individual practitioners providing coordinated care for each child

Separated children seeking asylum/unaccompanied asylum seeking children

As of 1 July 2016 all local authorities will be asked to accommodate those children and young people under the age of 18 who have been allowed entry to the UK seeking asylum but who are not accompanied by a parent or carer.

These children will automatically become “children in care” and will require their health needs assessed and a health package put in place for them.

All children and young people will be seen for an initial health assessment (IHA) within 20 days by the children in care medical advisors. At this appointment the medical advisor will make onward referrals for all UASC for both physical and emotional health needs identified.

Contact details

Louise Harris Smith, NHS Dorset Designated Nurse for Children in Care and Care Experienced Young People
07870 803657

Admin support

Dr Rachel Lachlan, NHS Dorset Designated Doctor
0300 019 3346

Clare Billings, Named Nurse
07468 755644

Dorset Health Care Children in Care and Care Experienced Health Team
01305 361127

Clare Billings can be contacted directly for any health-related operations queries for all children in care, young people, and care leavers.