Child health high on the agenda

Children’s doctors say they are “witnessing a hugely welcome shift towards the prioritisation of child health” but warn child poverty, cuts to public health services and uncertainties about Brexit pose substantial threats to progress.

Gillian Keegan, Member of Parliament for Chichester, spoke at a reception in Parliament where the ‘State of Child health: Two years on’ scorecard was published. The report published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) congratulates the Government on its commitment to child health, commending them on bold pledges in areas such as obesity, mental health and the integration of children’s health services.

The scorecard, which describes progress against a series of recommendations made in the RCPCH’s landmark ‘State of Child Health report’ (2017), have been produced for each of the four UK nations and reveal a varied picture.

In England the scorecard reveals progress in a number of areas including:

  • Child and adolescent mental health: A mental health prevalence survey is to be conducted every seven years and Government has announced substantial investment in community-based mental health services to ensure every child who needs specialist care can access it
  • Tackling childhood obesity: The soft drinks industry levy has been introduced, the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan proposes restrictions on junk food marketing, price promotions and food labelling, and NHS England has committed to a targeted support offer and access to weight management services in primary care for obese children
  • Reducing child deaths: A Reduction of Avoidable Mortality in Children Programme has been established and a National Child Mortality Database created, allowing lessons to be learnt and avoidable deaths prevented
  • Provision of statutory Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education in all schools: The introduction of statutory physical health and wellbeing education, alongside relationships and sex education, has been confirmed
  • Strengthened tobacco control: Government published its Tobacco Control Delivery Plan and progress has been made in reducing marketing of e-cigarettes for non-medicinal use on television and radio
  • A health system that meets the needs of children and young people: By 2028, the NHS will move to a 0-25 years service and towards service models for young people that offer person-centred and age appropriate care for both mental and physical health needs, rather than arbitrary transition to adult services that are based on age rather than need.

Gillian Keegan said: The scorecard published today shows the Government is taking children's health very seriously and their improvement plans are working. There is a long journey ahead, but I am very pleased we are heading in the right direction.'

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

“This scorecard reveals great progress for child health. We are particularly pleased to see children feature as an integral part in the recently published NHS Long Term Plan. We are witnessing a hugely welcome shift towards the prioritisation of child health, which is exciting not just for us as paediatricians, but for the health prospects of children today and generations to come."