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England falling behind on child health services, report says

Child health services in England are falling behind those of the rest of the UK, says a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health that criticises what it calls the ‘destructive’ reductions in preventive services made by local authorities


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Child health services in England are falling behind those of the rest of the UK, a report says.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health criticised what it called the ‘destructive’ reductions in preventive services made by local authorities in England.

But it praised advances made by the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland, especially in regard to mental health and introducing smoking bans.

Junk food advertising

The report, State of Child Health: One Year On, examines the progress made by the three governments on recommendations made by the college a year ago.

In England, the college expresses concern that cuts in public health spending, which it says was down 5% in 2017-18 compared with 2013-14, are having a disproportionate effect on child services.

Other areas of concern include a lack of plans for an overarching child health strategy, no ban on junk food advertising and no increase in investment in child health research.

Sugar tax

The government is introducing a tax on soft drinks high in sugar in April this year and is making education on sex and relationships mandatory in schools. But the authors say the health and well-being of children in England remain largely unchanged.

Commenting on the report, RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said: ‘This report paints a picture of fragmented and underfunded services with children facing a postcode lottery for healthcare.

‘With at least 10% of children and young people affected by poor mental health and rising childhood obesity levels across the country, it’s unacceptable that Westminster is dragging its feet in implementing the recommendations of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.’

Praise for Scotland and Wales

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health praises Scotland for: 

  • Passing the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act designed to reduce child poverty to under 10% by 2030.
  • A new mental health strategy including a commitment to improve transition to adult services.
  • Plans to recruit 500 new health visitors by the end of 2018.

Wales is commended for:

  • Extending bans on smoking in public places to school grounds by introducing the Public Health (Wales) Act.
  • Opening a new facility to expand capacity for child health research.

World-leading safeguards

Despite this progress, the report says both countries have more work to do on overall child health, including in poverty and obesity in Scotland.

The college is calling for each national government to commit to a ‘child health in all policies’ approach, meaning whenever legislation is passed the impact on child health must be considered.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘There is always more to do, but we have world-leading plans in place to safeguard child health by combatting obesity, improving mental health and vaccinating against some of the world's deadliest diseases.’


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