Local health strategies 'fail to focus on children's needs'

By Neil Puffett

| 16 May 2017

Local plans to ensure health services are built around the needs of people living in the area are routinely failing to focus on provision for children and young people, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has warned.

Neena Modi, president of the RCPCH, says a lack of focus on the health and wellbeing needs of children and young people is "short-sighted". Picture: RCPCH

The organisation said a review it has conducted of sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) - the proposals that the NHS and local councils are required to put together in order to meet the health needs of the local population - are failing to take into account the needs of infants, children and young people.

A report - based on a review of the 44 published STPs - states that while most STPs set out the case for change well and cover important key themes such as prevention, early intervention, more care delivered in the community, better mental health services and integrated working, there is a lack of detail underpinning the vision.  

It concludes that the lack of profile given to infants, children and young people by the majority of STPs, is a "major cause for concern".

The RCPCH highlighted a number of issues in the report. It said:

  • The majority of STPs do not demonstrate appreciation of the life-long impact of poor health in childhood
  • The majority of STPs contain little mention of the health and wellbeing needs of children, except in relation to child and adolescent mental health services
  • Plans have not demonstrated that local agencies have met their statutory duties to engage with children, young people and their families
  • Plans do not make clear how serious workforce shortages will be addressed

RCPCH president, professor Neena Modi, said: "We're disappointed at the lack of focus on the health and wellbeing needs of infants, children and young people. 

"It is short-sighted and a major cause for concern, that they appear to have been forgotten. Investing in child health is a hallmark of a mature society committed to securing the wellbeing of future generations.

"As a healthy child grows into a healthy adult, able to contribute to the economic productivity of the nation, such investment also makes strong financial sense.

"We've found a real lack of clarity around strategic direction, oversight, accountability and responsibility for STPs as they evolve.

"Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that STPs, or any new models of care, will be successful given the substantial workforce shortages and major funding constraints that the NHS is currently experiencing."
 
The report makes a series of recommendations, including a call for NHS England and NHS Improvement to ensure that all STPs develop, implement and evaluate a strategic plan that meets the needs of children and young people.

It also calls for all plans to feature a named lead for infants, children and young people, and for local paediatricians and child health or sector professionals to be involved in the development and implementation of plans.

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