Children's health care needs are being ignored

July 20, 2000

Who is speaking for children and adolescents and for their health at the policy level?

The government's NHS modernisation plans are ignoring the fundamental health care needs of children and young people in England, according to research in this week's BMJ.

A team, led by Professor Aynsley-Green of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Professor David Hall of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, argue that the health of children and young people is vital for the future success of our society. Yet, despite this, improving the health of children is not a key government target.

The authors identify several key areas of neglect - fragmentation of young people's health services, failure to charge anyone with the responsibility for children's rights and interests and a fundamental lack of understanding towards children's needs. This unsatisfactory position contrasts starkly with child focused initiatives elsewhere in the UK, they say. In Scotland, a minister for children has been appointed and the health of children is one of four new health priorities. Similarly, children's health issues are at the top of the agenda in Wales.

If children in England are to benefit from the current NHS reforms, then several fundamental changes are needed. These include appointing an independent children's commissioner for England and developing a national strategy for children's and young people's health.

With an increasingly older population, the needs of children - unless made specific - are increasingly likely to be overlooked, say the authors. They call on the government to improve the status of children and adolescents in the new NHS and stress the need for advocacy as the key to changing attitudes towards this most precious resource in the long term.

Albert Aynsley-Green, President, Association of Clinical Professors of Paediatrics, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Institute of Child Health, University College London, London WC1N 1EH Email:

Professor David Hall, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 50 Hallam St London W1N 6DE


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