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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Child healthcare goals unveiled
Sick child
The framework says children should be involved in how they are treated
The government has unveiled standards for the healthcare of children and adolescents in England.

The National Service Framework calls for child-centred care, and says children should no longer be treated simply as "mini adults".

Experts have called it the "greatest opportunity" to improve child health since the beginning of the NHS.

But some campaigners fear the lack of specific funding for the NSF will mean it has "limited impact".

KEY POINTS
Home treatment for children and young people with complex conditions
Early diagnosis and age-appropriate care for children
A Child Health Promotion Programme to be established to cover pre-birth to adulthood
Better speech and language therapy services
Involve children and young people in decisions about their care
Use computer games and text messaging to communicate with child patients
Help young people with mental health problems early so they can receive the care they need
Ensure all pregnant women receive high-quality care

Critics have also expressed concern that the framework is not backed by any dedicated funding.

The NSF outlines a 10 year plan for improving the community health and social care children should receive.

The government published an NSF outlining the expected standards of hospital care for children last year.

Involvement

The NSF says children should receive health and social care which is appropriate to their age, and that their needs should be recognised as being distinct to those of adults.

It covers areas including the care of children with complex health needs and mental health problems and disabilities, and says children and young people should be involved in deciding how their treatment should progress.

Some areas may have difficulty in making sure the standards become a reality.
Beverley Malone, Royal College of Nursing
It was triggered by the reports into the Bristol babies heart scandal and into the case of Victoria Climbie both highlighted failings in how services for children were organised and managed.

Health Secretary John Reid said: "These new national standards will ensure that children and young people are not just seen as mini-adults, but have access to services that are tailored to meet their individual needs."

Education Secretary Charles Clarke added: "Children and their families will receive integrated health, social care and education services, that are prompt, convenient, and responsive.

Professor Al Aynsley-Green, National Director for Children's Services said: "At the heart of the NSF is a fundamental change in the way that we think, with services being designed and delivered not around organisations or professionals, but around the real needs of children and their families. "

Dr Simon Lenton, vice-president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "This is the first time, anywhere, that there has been a comprehensive review of the children's health services, and standards set for them.

"It is the greatest opportunity to improve children's service since the establishment of the NHS."

But he added: "The real challenge will be engaging all the people who are involved in children's services."

'Concrete improvements needed'

The National Children's Homes children's charity said the NSF was "a step in the right direction".

But Barbara Peacock, health spokesperson for NCH added: "The fact that there is no specific funding attached to the NSF is a real issue.

"We believe there should be a pot of money, which is ring-fenced, to make plans set out in the framework a reality. Without this, the framework will have a limited impact."

She added: "We also hope that standards set out in the document will translate into real change and not remain an aspiration. Their impact should be monitored very closely."

And Beverley Malone, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said she had concerns about how the standards would be met across the country.

"We do worry that, as implementation is left entirely to local discretion, some areas may have difficulty in making sure the standards become a reality.

"The real test will be whether children and their families come to see concrete improvements in the health care they experience."


SEE ALSO:
Push on children's healthcare
10 Apr 03  |  Health
'More research into child drugs'
17 Aug 04  |  Health


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