RCPCH responds to Health & Social Care Committee report Clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic

On 6 January 2022 the Health and Social Care Select Committee published a report to the UK Government with recommendations on tackling the backlog caused by the impact of the pandemic in England. The RCPCH provided evidence to the committee in September 2021 and has responded to the publication of the report.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

Children are set to lose the most from the pandemic without major government intervention. As outlined in the committee's helpful report, tackling the backlogs of care needs an immediate long-term strategy. The future of our society - our children and young people - must be front of mind when government considers its response and future policy.

Last month, data showed that there are more than 288,000 children and young people waiting for NHS treatment, with 86,000 waiting for more than 18 weeks. Long delays to care have a particularly acute impact on children as many treatments are age or developmental stage critical. These figures are already stark and we are still mid-winter, with a much a depleted workforce. As the report emphasises, an over-reliance on numerical targets fails to recognise hidden backlogs and this is never truer than in children's services. 

We welcome the committee's recommendations to government on measuring and supporting the NHS workforce, and call for a new People Plan for the 2022-23 financial year. We need the right numbers of appropriately trained child health practitioners, working across primary, secondary, community, mental health and social care, mapped out for the long-term. Without this, health inequalities are set to increase.

We strongly urge the government to heed the key recommendations made by the committee, including to deliver a national health and care recovery plan by April 2022. We would highlight that a specific chapter on children and young people should be a priority inclusion.