DH pledges to improve child health outcomes

Sick child wiping his nose The Department of Health has published a ‘pledge’ to improve health outcomes for children and young people through co-ordinated activity across the NHS.

Stated aims include a reduction in the child mortality rate, improved care for children with long-term conditions, and better mental health care for the young.

A new Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Board, led by the Chief Medical Officer, will focus on improving outcomes across paediatric care.

The DH is responding to a report from the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum, warning that child mortality rates in England are among the worst in Europe and that 26% of children’s deaths are linked to failures in direct care.

The Forum calls for attention to obesity, maintenance of long-term conditions, earlier diagnosis of mental health disorders, and better attention to the health needs of looked-after children.

GPs will be offered specialised training or support in paediatric health, and provided with new colour-coded health maps showing trends in conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

The CCGs will be asked to review their provision of services for children and investigate poor outcomes.

The DH also said it would investigate proposals by the Royal College of General Practitioners to extend GP training for a fourth year to include child health and mental health.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said: “It is a shocking fact that child mortality in Britain is the worst when compared to other similar European countries. There is unacceptable variation across the country in the quality of care for children – for example in the treatment of long-term conditions.

“Our pledge demonstrates how all parts of the system will play their part and work together to improve children’s health.”

Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, commented: “It’s crucial that this momentum is maintained and that outcomes are regularly measured to drive improvements.

“We will be directly involved in a number of areas, which include enhancing the use of medicines in children and working with GPs to ensure paediatrics is part of their training.”

Signatories to the pledge include the DH, Healthwatch, the NHS Commissioning Board, NICE, MHRA and Public Health England.

A key principle of the pledge is that improving children’s health outcomes will not only reduce child mortality but lay the foundations for healthier adult lives.