The Health and Care Bill is the most substantive piece of health legislation for close to a decade. It covers a wide range of issues, including service configuration, workforce and public health measures.
Prior to Second Reading of the Bill, we will produce a full briefing for MPs and Peers, lobbying them to ensure the legislation does everything possible to improve child health outcomes.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President said:
We believe the integration of health and care services is particularly important for children and young people’s health. We also recognise that the core of this Bill is about providing a statutory framework for systems in England for changes that have been underway over a number of years. There are some areas of the country where Integrated Care Systems (ICS) are already doing an excellent job with regard to children and young people’s health, but they can’t wait longer to be put on statutory footing to maximise the impact of their work.
We appreciate that the Bill is intended to be permissive rather than restrictive, and we broadly support this approach. The accompanying statutory guidance for the Bill will be as important for children and young people’s health as the key measures on the face of the Bill, and we look forward to scrutinising it alongside the legislation.
We are particularly pleased to see the duty on ICS boards to reduce inequalities between patients in their ability to access care, and between patient health outcomes more generally. This was a call we made in our submission to the Health and Social Care Select Committee regarding the White Paper that preceded this Bill. We know it’s particularly important from State of Child Health 2020, which showed child health inequalities are widening across a number of indicators.
Children and young people have distinct health and care needs, and as such, we want to see a children and young people’s health lead mandated in the statutory guidance when published, given it is not on the face of the Bill.
This Bill provided an opportunity to introduce a more ambitious duty on the Secretary of State to make provision for the future of the NHSE workforce. It is unfortunate that the opportunity has not been taken.
Finally, we welcome a number of ambitious public health measures in the Bill, including the ban on junk food marketing before 9pm, and the complete ban online. Given the rate of childhood obesity in England, especially amongst children living in areas with high rates of deprivation, this is a critical policy measure.
We will be producing a briefing to help us lobby Parliamentarians on this Bill in the coming days and weeks, alongside working constructively with officials in Whitehall, NHSE and with other stakeholders. This legislation provides a real opportunity to improve children and young people’s health outcomes in England – currently some of the worst in Europe – and Government must demonstrate its commitment to ensuring all children get the best start in life.