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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Push on children's healthcare
Child treatment
The NSF aims to improve hospital services for children
The way children are cared for in hospital is to be radically reformed in the wake of a series of scandals.

Ministers have unveiled new national standards in an effort to deliver more child-friendly services in hospitals.

The National Service Framework (NSF) for children will also aim to stamp out variations in care and improve standards and facilities.

The guidelines will draw on recommendations from the inquiries into the Bristol heart scandal and the Victoria Climbie case.

Specialist units

Under the 10-year plan, all A&E departments will in future be required to have dedicated children's units.

Hospitals will be expected to have separate facilities for young children and adolescents.

There will also be specialist training for all medical staff involved in the treatment of children.

These new national standards will help ensure that the care the NHS delivers for children is genuinely safe and child-centred
Health Secretary Alan Milburn
All hospitals will now be expected to appoint a "children's champion" to sit on the trust management board to ensure standards are met.

This is in line with one of the key recommendations from the inquiry into the Bristol heart scandal.

In addition, doctors and parents will have to agree on clear care plans for children before they are discharged from hospital.

This follows a recommendation from the inquiry investigating the case of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was killed at the hands of her aunt and her boyfriend and whose abuse was missed repeatedly by health and social service workers.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said the guidelines would ensure young patients received the highest standards of care.

"No one wants their child to have to go into hospital, but if they do it is important their stay is safe, comfortable and that the care they receive is of the highest standard," he said.

"These new national standards will help ensure that the care the NHS delivers for children is genuinely safe and child-centred."

He also announced a £70m package to improve intensive care facilities for newborn babies.

Higher standards

Speaking at the launch of the NSF at Homerton Hospital in London, Mr Milburn added that improving standards would take time.

"The standards cannot be delivered overnight. They require changes to the way hospitals operate and the way staff work."

The government's children's tsar Professor Al Aynsley-Green, backed the new guidelines.

"Children are our nation's most precious resource and are absolutely vital for our future success as a country - that is why the NSF aims to improve the lives and health of children and young people through the delivery of appropriate, integrated, effective and needs-led services. The hospital standard is a key first step towards this vision."

Jo Williams, chief executive of the disability charity Mencap and one of those involved in drawing up the guidelines, backed the NSF.

"I hope that as a result of this new standard children will find that going to hospital for whatever reason and for whatever period of time is a helpful experience that meets their needs.

"I am particularly pleased that the standard emphasises the need for agencies to work together but also in real partnership with children and their carers."

This first part of the NSF is expected to be followed by further guidelines on other aspects of children's care over the coming year.

BLISS, the premature baby charity, welcomed plans to improve intensive care facilities for newborn infants which it said were long overdue.

In a statement, it said: "All those concerned with these vulnerable babies needing specialist care have been calling for a review of neonatal services for almost a decade.

"Over this time, mothers and babies have been transferred around the country in a totally haphazard way, often hundreds of miles away, because baby units have been full or short of nurses. This has put both mothers and babies at risk."

The National Autistic Society also welcomed the new guidelines.

A spokeswoman said: "It is essential that health and social care professionals receive training to help them develop their knowledge and understanding of autism spectrum disorder and its effects on everyday life."

Dr Gill Morgan, of the NHS Confederation, backed the NSF. "Children's care has for too long been overshadowed and these national standards will ensure that children¿s needs are placed at the top of the agenda."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Marsden said: "At last we have the NSF. But it must be followed up by the proper resources going straight through to nurses and doctors, with no political strings attached."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gill Higgins
"Children will get a better deal"



SEE ALSO:
Trusts to take over child care
28 Jan 03  |  Health
Children 'ignoring' health messages
07 Nov 02  |  Scotland
Why Bristol is so important
18 Jul 01  |  Health


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