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Care for children in England with mental illness or learning disabilities often poor

A Care Quality Commission survey of 19,000 children aged up to 15 in England reveals that those who have mental health problems or a learning disability feel their care is often substandard

Care for children with mental health problems and learning disabilities must be a ‘key area for future investment’, RCN general secretary Peter Carter has said following the findings of a survey showing that children and parents feel care is too often substandard.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) survey reveals that only 45% of parents and carers of children with physical disabilities, and 49% of parents and carers of children with mental health conditions or learning disabilities thought staff were aware of their children’s medical history before caring or treating them.

Less than half of parents and carers of children with a physical disability, mental health needs or a learning disability felt staff knew how to care for their child’s needs.

The survey covered almost 19,000 children and young people aged up to 15 who stayed in hospitals overnight or were seen as day patients across 137 acute trusts in 2014.

Dr Carter said: ‘The survey's discovery that most children and their parents are happy with the care they receive is heartening, but it also uncovered unacceptable inadequacies in the care of children with mental health conditions and those with learning or physical difficulties. There is a fundamental need for appropriate inpatient services, and this needs to be a key area for future investment.’

Ambitious About Autism chief executive Jolanta Lasota said: ‘A hospital experience is traumatic for any child but it is even more so for those with special needs. A good understanding of the nature of learning disabilities such as autism is vital to knowing how to treat someone on the autism spectrum. Factors that might not be taken into consideration, such as sensitivity to physical contact, bright lights and loud noise, can all be extra factors that make a hospital experience more traumatic for those with autism.’

Click here to read the Children and young people's survey 2014

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