The aim of the 2021 Review was to inform and advise upon ongoing and future workplans to address the problem of growing paediatric health waiting lists, to ensure children are visible as part of this process and that their rights are considered at all stages.
The Review presented official waiting list data for children’s health services not published as part of the Department of Health statistical bulletins and serves as a much-needed spotlight on the real-life picture and impact of waiting for care for children in Northern Ireland.
Responding to the Progress Report, Dr Ray Nethercott said:
We welcome the Children’s Commissioner’s progress report and her commitment to vehemently follow up on departmental progress against the More Than a Number Review’s recommendations.
On the whole, the report paints a worsening picture for children on health waiting lists. While much of these systemic problems in managing waitlists and commissioning within child health existed pre-COVID, the impact of the pandemic cannot be understated.
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.
Similarly, lack of access to community health services can also have 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. We agree with the Children’s Commissioner that bringing forward a ‘Paediatric Services Rebuild and Recovery Plan’ should happen without delay.
Ultimately, we need our political leaders to commit to forming a government and the rolling out a multi-year budget, which should include a proper funding plan for the Paediatric Strategies and support for those tasked with taking this forward. True and meaningful transformation can only come about with a stable government in Northern Ireland.