RCPCH responds to Labour's Child Health Action Plan

Today, the College has welcomed the Labour Party announcement on the launch of their Child Health Action Plan that aims for a future where children are healthy, happy and can get the NHS care they need. The College has called for further detail on how this will be implemented.

As part of the College’s influencing work with politicians, we have repeatedly highlighted the poor state of child health in the UK today and it is positive that this plan reflects many of the issues we have drawn attention to. This includes cutting paediatric waiting times, reducing obesity, improving oral health, and regulating vaping.

The plan follows the publication of the RCPCH General Election Manifesto that includes a range of policy solutions across child health services, prevention of ill health, workforce, and child protection and safeguarding. We have shared and discussed our manifesto with MPs and party officials across the political spectrum and will continue to do so to encourage all parties to set out their plans for child health ahead of a general election expected this year. 

The pledges from Labour today follow several from the Liberal Democrats on children’s health including the need for a Cabinet-Level Minister for Children and greater ambition on mental health. 

In response to the Labour Child Health Action Plan, Dr Camilla Kingdon, President, said:

At present the UK has some of the worst child health outcomes in Europe, and child health inequalities continue to widen. It is therefore welcome to see the Labour party’s intention to publish a dedicated Child Health Action Plan, which outlines many of the calls paediatricians have been making repeatedly – including tackling paediatric waiting times, supporting the health prevention agenda and providing support for child mental health. It is positive to read about a cross-departmental missions delivery board for child health, as children are too often forgotten in wider policy making.

These actions are useful starting points, and we look forward to seeing further detail on how they may be implemented. The future wellbeing and prosperity of our nation is dependent upon building a solid foundation of health for our next generation, and so investing in a healthy and happy childhood for all has never been more important.

The Labour Party has additionally pledged to end long NHS waits for children's care. They have said they will end waits for treatment of more than 18 weeks and, if elected, immediately write to all Integrated Care Boards telling them to prioritise children's waiting lists. This intervention comes following months of the College highlighting the long waits children face for treatment and the disparity between adult and children's care. 

Responding to this announcement, Dr Ronny Cheung, Officer for Health Services said:

We’re pleased to see the scandal that is the children’s waiting list finally getting the attention it needs. It’s wholly unacceptable to have so many children waiting over a year for treatment. A year long wait for a child means a significant portion of their lives are spent in uncertainty or discomfort - time crucial to their physical, psychological and social development that they cannot easily get back. The plans from Labour on how they would tackle this problem are welcome, but the fact remains that children are stuck on waiting on lists for much needed care today. We need action now to ensure children do not continue to miss out on the important aspects of a healthy, happy childhood.

This is not a trivial matter. We’re calling on Government and all political parties to work together to finally prioritise children and ensure they get the treatment and care they need.