Press release

Experts welcome unprecedented focus on children and young people’s healthcare but say more progress needed across system

Support for children and young people’s health is getting better, according to a new report published today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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The first annual report by the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum has praised the progress but also highlighted areas where more needs to be done.

The report looks at the progress made since the Forum made its initial recommendations in 2012.

The Forum believes that if child death rates in the UK improved to the levels of Sweden then up to five deaths a day could be prevented. Its report shows that by investing in early intervention the pressure on the health service is reduced in the longer term.

The report calls for a cross-system approach, joining up government, the whole health service, social care and education professionals to improve care for young people.

It calls for:

  • A stronger voice for children: all healthcare organisations need to listen to children and young people. Clinicians and the health sector should do more to take children’s comments on board to improve the services they use.
  • Better training: all people who work with children and young people must be appropriately trained and have the right skills, attitudes and behaviours.
  • Better data: there is a need for more data to make sure that progress can be properly measured and regional variation improved.
  • More integration between children’s health and social care.
  • A bigger role for schools: schools need a greater focus on public health and early intervention and prevention.
  • A new strategy on children’s mental health services: to reduce the gap between physical and mental health services for children.
  • Updating the NHS constitution to make it more relevant to children and their families – tailoring the NHS constitution towards children will allow families to know what their entitlements are and give them an even stronger voice.

Christine Lenehan, Co-chair of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcome Forum said:

There has been much improvement in the health sector in the last couple of years to address the concerns we had initially. However, more needs to be done, and faster.

We have challenged the sector on where more progress is needed to deliver on its pledge to improve the health outcomes of our children and young people. We want to see our system amongst the best in the world, and make sure we reduce the number of children who are needlessly dying.

There needs to be a greater focus on public health and early intervention and prevention, with a raised profile of role that schools can and should play. The Forum is concerned that children’s mental health services are becoming disjointed to the point that children are falling through the gaps. More investment is urgently needed and we expect the NHS to make sure that the parity of esteem element of the NHS Mandate is being followed through.

Maternity and Child Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter said:

Since the Forum’s first report we now have a much needed and unparalleled focus on children and young people’s health. Too often in the past, children’s health has been an afterthought and this has led to unacceptable variation.

We are working hard to change this. As a result of our investment in children we have seen a 23 per cent rise in the number of health visitors and we have also invested £54 million in mental health support for young people. We are also investing in training so that NHS staff have even stronger paediatric skills. There is much more to do and we want the NHS to go even faster to improve care for children and young people.

Dr Jackie Cornish, National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Transition to Adulthood at NHS England, is an observer on the forum, she said:

Our children and young people deserve the very best start in life. Whilst there’s been immense change and progress, this report is an important challenge to the health, social and education system such that there must be no complacency. We will continue to drive improvement so that every child and young person receives a seamless, high quality safe service with a clear focus on prevention, good patient experience and achieving the best possible health outcomes.

As part of its work to improve care for young people, the government has announced today that it has asked the national training body, Health Education England, to introduce a new training course aimed at GPs so they can develop additional specialist skills to care for young people with long term conditions such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy.

Children and young people represent 22 per cent of the population and typically, pre-school children see their GP six times a year. The quality of care they receive in general practice can have significant implications for attendance and admissions in urgent and emergency care and in shaping attitudes to healthy behaviour and healthcare services for the rest of a child’s life. However many GPs have little or no formal paediatric training.

Health Education England will also appoint a national clinical lead for maternity, children and young people’s health to make sure that there is a strong focus on children’s needs when training the next generation of NHS staff.

The Forum’s focus this year will be on taking forward its work programme, which is aligned to its challenges to the health and care system. The forum will be working with a range of stakeholders including the Department of Health, the Chief Medical Officer, NHS England, Public Health England, Health Education England and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to make sure that the unprecedented focus on improving children and young people’s health outcomes is sustained.

Published 30 April 2014