Page last updated at 19:44 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 20:44 UK

Review of NHS children's services

Boy sitting alone
The health secretary says he will not set central targets

NHS policies on safeguarding children are to be reviewed following the Baby Peter case, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has announced.

He told a healthcare workers' conference in Merseyside lessons from the "terrible tragedy" needed to be absorbed "at every possible level".

Former Healthcare Commission chairman, Prof Sir Ian Kennedy, has been asked to complete the review by March 2010.

Sir Ian will also examine how the NHS works with its partners.

Peter Connelly was 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her lover, Steven Barker, and their lodger - Barker's brother Jason Owen.

The public was outraged by the case after it emerged Peter had suffered 50 injuries despite 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police.

A series of reviews have highlighted missed opportunities to act earlier, which might have saved his life.

The importance of children and young people's health and well-being cannot be overstated
Sir Ian Kennedy

Mr Burnham told the Southport conference: "[The review] does very strongly draw on the terrible tragedy of Baby Peter. We need to, at every possible level, absorb the lessons of that case."

Sir Ian said: "The care and welfare of children are a large part of what the NHS does.

"There are many examples of good practice, but there is also room for improvement: the importance of children and young people's health and well-being cannot be overstated."

He said he would talk to NHS staff and health workers to identify any problems and discuss improvements.

Mr Burnham also vowed to increase the number of health visitors after what he described as the "worrying" recent drop.

One full-time health visitor job is lost every 30 hours, according to recent NHS workforce figures.

The health secretary also said he would not be setting central targets but instead wanted to see primary care trusts take individual control.

He said: "Now that the health service has improved, I don't think we need to dictate everything from the centre.

"We do need to give people the power at a local level to spend money where they think the priorities are."



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