Today, we launched our manifesto for the 2019 General Election. Our headline policy calls focus on a sustainable workforce, supporting healthier environments and lifestyles for children and young people, placing children at the heart of Brexit preparations, and commitments to delivering sustainable and high quality NHS services for children and young people.
Depending on where you live in the UK, some of this will be within the gift of the Westminster Parliament to deliver, and other aspects will be the responsibility of devolved governments and services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We’ll be campaigning in the devolved nations when elections take place, which we expect in 2021 in Wales and Scotland and 2022 in Northern Ireland. In the meantime the UK-wide elections this year have vital implications for child health around the UK.
Here, our Officers for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland set out what the General Election means for them.
Dr David Tuthill, RCPCH Officer for Wales
Devolved politics naturally means that different countries within the UK have different priorities and approaches - but it is essential that a shared commitment to the health and wellbeing of our children and young people is at the heart of policy in all parts of the UK. Some of our policy asks focus on services in England that are devolved in Wales. We’ll campaign for action on these issues when we elect a new Assembly in 2021. Others apply across the UK.
For example, the Welsh Government recently published Healthy Weight Healthy Wales, its strategy to reduce obesity. We’ve welcomed this strategy and want to see it implemented in full. However, powers to protect children from advertising food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt on broadcast media sit with the Westminster Government, not the Welsh Government. The same applies to the soft drinks industry levy (sometimes called the sugar tax), which we want to see updated. Action on these issues would maximise the impact of the strategy in Wales.
There are actions that the UK Government can take to help paediatricians in Wales too, even though health and health services are devolved. We’re calling for reform of the pension tax rules that are punishing doctors for working extra shifts. This would help support the paediatric workforce everywhere.
Dr Steve Turner, RCPCH Officer for Scotland
Although health is a devolved issue for Scotland, it is important going into this general election that we stand together as a UK college - to ensure our messages around child health are consistent and result in positive outcomes for all our children and young people.
Moving forward to 2021 and the Scottish elections, our State of Child Health 2020 report will provide us with robust data to allow us to formulate appropriate policy asks around issues such as obesity, child poverty and a sustainable child health workforce.
Dr Ray Nethercott, RCPCH Officer for Ireland
We face a unique set of challenges in Northern Ireland, including ongoing discussions around the border with the Republic of Ireland and the absence of a power sharing Executive at Stormont.
The pressure on the health service in Northern Ireland is growing and concern has been voiced by both the Permanent Secretary for Health as well as the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Long term planning is difficult in the unstable political environment and in the absence of a functioning Executive we call on the incoming UK Government to prioritise both the long term funding within the Northern Ireland Budget and the interests of children and young people in delivering Health and Well Being 2026: Delivering Together.
Brexit poses significant concerns for Northern Ireland and with already existing workforce gaps and a reliance on cross border services, paediatricians in Northern Ireland urge the incoming UK Government to ensure that the interests of children and young people are given prominence. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border with another EU member state. We want to see assurances of the continuation of integrated health services between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Services are reliant on a shared workforce and it is imperative that there is no impediment to the free movement of people on the Island of Ireland.