Policy piece

23rd January 2018 • Emma Cooper

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has published its new scorecard State of Child Health: One Year On. It warns that child health is suffering at the hands of a disjointed approach from central Government.

The scorecards for England, Scotland and Wales describe progress against the series of recommendations made a year ago in the RCPCH’s landmark State of Child Health report.

The England scorecard reveals progress in some areas including the launch of a Digital Child Health Strategy, the publication of a new Tobacco Control Plan, the initiation of some specialist service reviews in paediatrics and the implementation of the sugar tax. However, there has been no improvement in several fundamental areas, including:

  • No plans for an overarching child health strategy.
  • No junk food advertising ban.
  • No way of measuring UK breastfeeding prevalence.
  • No increased investment in child health research.

Areas of concern

The greatest areas of concern, says RCPCH, are the deepening public health cuts which have worsened in the last year and are disproportionately affecting children’s services. The scorecard marks this ‘black’, quoting latest statistics that show public health spending is over 5% lower in 2017-18 compared with 2013-14.

The scorecard shows that no progress has been made under section 11, Tailor the health system to meet the needs of children, young people, their parents and carers. Recommendations in this category include:

  • NHS England should ensure better transitions from child to adult services, involving children and young people in planning the transfer, and promoting the many examples of best practice that exist.
  • Health Education England should fund mandatory child health training for all GP trainees.
  • NHS England should ensure every child and young person with a long-term condition has a named doctor or health professional.
  • NHS England should ensure parents and carers are engaged and equipped with the
    appropriate skills and knowledge to navigate the planned digital health and care system.

The RCPCH is calling for each national government to commit to a ‘child health in all policies’ approach, meaning that whenever legislation is passed, the impact on child health must be considered. The RCPCH also wants to see a cross-party committee established to develop a child health strategy.

Local government response

Responding to the report on the State of Child Health by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, ‘We support the RCPCH’s call for a more robust approach to child health and to have a better and much improved long-term child health strategy.

‘Councils have long-warned that unless more decisive action is taken, both individually and through targeted initiatives, the potential consequences of the impact on children’s health later in life could be devastating.

‘Evidence shows that intervening in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can make a difference across their lifetime. But with council’s public health grant funding being cut by £531 million between 2015/16 and 2019/2020 and councils facing a £2 billion funding gap to children’s services by 2020, it is making that task harder.

‘The report highlights that there are still no national plans to ban junk food advertising. The LGA has long called for fundamental reforms to tackle childhood obesity, such as for councils to be given a say in how and where the soft drinks levy is spent, better labelling on food and drink products, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

‘Public health services play a vital role in improving the health of children, young people and adults, reducing the need for treatment later down the line and easing the pressure on the NHS.

‘Unless this is properly funded, it will put services at risk  which are vital in supporting the health and development of babies, children and families.’