Politicians must value our children as much as the elderly or Britain faces ‘serious consequences’, says top children’s doctor
Children’s doctors are today issuing a stark warning to the next Government – claiming if politicians don’t get to grips with improving child health, the economic and social burden on the NHS will be so great that the health of future generations will be put at risk.
In its manifesto, Vision2015, launching today, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) challenges all political parties to commit to a series of measures that it says will radically improve the state of child health in the UK.
- The UK’s child mortality rate is the second worst in Western Europe, with an estimated 5 excess child deaths a day compared to the best performing country
- Britain is dubbed ‘the fat man of Europe’ – with a third of children overweight or obese by the age of 9
- Child and adolescent mental health services are under severe strain – and 1 in 10 children (that’s around 3 in every classroom) have a diagnosable mental health condition
Writing in the foreword, RCPCH President Dr Hilary Cass says there will be ‘serious consequences’ for inaction on improving children and young people’s health given that half of the top 10 risk factors for the total burden of disease are initiated or shaped in adolescence.
“The main focus of health and social care policy from successive Government has been on meeting the needs of an ageing population. Many of the big ticket policies – such as pension increases, winter fuel allowances and free TV licences – have made a welcome difference to many older peopleWe now want to see equal focus given to our younger population.
“Not only should this be done because it directly benefits children and young people but also because it will improve the health of the nation as a whole. Healthy children are more likely to be healthy adults ”” and of course the reverse is also true.”
Recommendations in Vision2015 cover a range of areas from prevention, early intervention and reducing health inequalities and child deaths through to making the NHS a better place for the UK’s 11 million children and involving them in decision making. They include:
To tackle the UK’s poor childhood mortality rate:
- Introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas to reduce the number of road accidents
- Restrict access to alcohol by children and young people including the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Disclose information about the impact of the Chancellor’s annual budget statement on child poverty and inequality – known to be key risk factors for child mortality
To reduce childhood obesity:
- Ban advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm
- Implement food and nutrition training for teachers and ensure Public Health England promotes policies which improve children’s diet in schools.
To address the poor mental health of children and young people:
- Develop an action plan for improving child and adolescent mental health services, focussing on prevention and early intervention to ensure parity of esteem for children and young people.
- Introduce statutory and comprehensive personal, social and health education(PSHE) programmes across all primary and secondary schools that is monitored by OFSTED
- Regularly update the B-CAMHS survey to identify the prevalence of mental health problems among children and young people in order to aid planning of healthcare services.
To ensure an NHS that fully meets the needs of children and young people and involves them in their care:
- Provide every child with a long-term condition with a named doctor or health professional
- Train every general practitioner and general practice nurse in child mental and physical health
- Extend the patient survey of young people in inpatient settings to cover outpatient and community settings, where transition at stages in the life course, communication and integration are key issues.
Whilst the RCPCH acknowledges there has been progress in some areas including the formation of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum and recent announcements on children and young people’s mental health, it says progress is slower than it should be. The College is calling for a public commitment from all political parties to give child health the attention it deserves
Lisa Murphy, a member of the RCPCH’s Youth Advisory Panel, said:
‘The health of young people in the United Kingdom has been falling behind the rest of Europe for too long, and it is crucial that all political parties commit to eradicating this discrepancy in their manifestos for the upcoming elections. There is an overwhelming body of evidence which highlights the need for early intervention in ensuring good health – through integration of health and education, reduction of socioeconomic inequalities and mandatory provision of paediatric training for all those in community health services.
“Strong policies which prioritise delivering these will have an immeasurably positive impact on the wider health service, communities and, most importantly, on young people themselves. As one of those young people I call on all parties to recognise our health needs and desires, and to show your commitment to us by promising to include our recommendations in your agenda for 2015.”
Dr Cass added:
“There has to be political will to make the changes needed to bring the UK up to the best in the world when it comes to child health. Strong policies to address these challenges will not only reap long term social and economic benefits, but with over 18 million families in the UK who would directly benefit, they’d surely be vote winners.
“We have to aspire to make Britain not only the best place to end life, but also to begin life. Healthy children are our future.”
Source: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH)