RCPCH responds to hidden community waitlists

Data recently revealed by the Health Service Journal paints a stark picture of the current community health backlog.
College response, with quote mark

The data showed:

  • More than a million people – including hundreds of thousands of children – are on an unpublished national waiting list for community health services
  • Over 75,000 children are waiting to access community paediatric services, including children needing help with developmental delay, long-term health conditions and additional needs
  • A backlog of more than 74,300 young people for speech and language therapy

In response to the figures, RCPCH President Dr Camilla Kingdon said: 

The extent of the hidden community waiting lists is extremely alarming. Community health services, such as autism services, mental health support and speech and language therapy, play a vital role in helping children from all backgrounds reach their full potential. 

As healthcare professionals we know that long waits are unacceptable for any patient, but for children and young people waits such as these can be life changing, with treatments needing to be given by a specific age or developmental stage. If we miss the right window to treat a child or wait too long the consequences can be irreversible. 

A lack of access to community health services also has direct implications for children and families in socio-economic terms. Delays accessing these essential services can impact social development, school readiness and ultimately educational outcomes, and further drive health inequalities across the country. It is worth noting that currently over 60% of young people in justice settings have speech, language, and communication needs.

Intervention is needed now. The figures revealed this week mean we are no longer working in the dark when it comes to tackling the community health backlog. We are calling for routine publication of waiting lists for paediatric community health services, so that data can be monitored and addressed. While the Conservative party leadership election continues, we also ask that both candidates outline their positions and plans for child health, health inequalities and the NHS workforce. Our children are the key to a healthy, strong, and sustainable future - they can no longer wait.