Turning the tide - harnessing the power of child health research (2012)

Children deserve, and parents expect, the best healthcare for their children. Research is vital to progress; we therefore produced this report in 2012, identifying the issues and making key recommendations for child health research in the UK. These recommendations include addressing paediatricians' accessibility to research opportunities and the public's perception of this work.

The RCPCH Commission for Child Health Research explored how to build on work that had already been done to establish the importance of child health research. The Commission aimed to detail key recommendations to promote child health research in all relevant sectors, including academia, government, medical research charities and most importantly the public and patients.

Since, we have updated this report - see Turning the tide - five years on.

Education, training and guidance

To improve training in research skills for all paediatricians in our training programme, the College will:

  • ground paediatric training in the tools of science
  • foster opportunities to join a clinical or non-clinical health research group at undergraduate level, and during paediatric clinical training
  • sign-post medical students and paediatric trainees to child health researchers who are able to provide research opportunity and supervision
  • provide clear, consistent guidance on routes into research, and requirements for obtaining approval to take time out of clinical training to obtain research experience
  • assess progress in attaining the core, generic research competencies included in the General Medical Council approved paediatric curriculum as part of the Annual Review of Competency Progression required of all paediatric trainees.

More information in the Lancet: A new generation of academic paediatricians

Children and families

Children, young people and parents should be at the centre-stage of efforts to increase and strengthen research to benefit their life-long health.

We applaud the recommendation for a Children’s Charter proposed by the Children’s Outcomes Forum, and will collaborate with key partners to ensure it reflects the importance of research.

We have a duty as a College to support professionals in communicating with parents and children about the benefits of participating in research and will provide relevant guidance training and support to ensure that all clinicians involved in research activity are confident in such communications.

Bringing organisations together

Children’s research will benefit from a coordinated approach to tackling priorities, overcoming obstacles, identifying funding in challenging economic circumstances, and improving the evidence base for national policies that affect children.

A collaborative, strategic approach will help organisations work together to break obstacles to progress, maximise impact, sharpen the focus on children’s research, and maintain momentum.

We will support strategic alignment of smaller charities and large funding bodies to optimise returns from research funding for best long-term benefit, advocate and lobby, and raise awareness of the need to increase and strengthen children’s research in the UK.


The infrastructure for children’s basic science and applied research in the UK is fragmented and complex. The Report of the Children’s and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum highlighted the need to stimulate the development of children’s research, and the evidence base for practice, to improve both physical and mental health outcomes.

Alongside our own commitments to improving research capability, we believe that infrastructure needs to be improved, and we provide recommendations to national bodies to achieve this.


Children’s research capacity is critically small with few posts for young researchers, and few substantive research grants awarded to paediatricians.

We recommend a collaborative effort by the National Institute of Health Research, universities, research councils and charities to bring about an acute expansion in clinical and nonclinical post-doctoral positions, lectureships and senior lectureships in child health, linked to established research groups to empower child health researchers to achieve success in a competitive and financially difficult environment.

National Health Service

The NHS should be the best place in the world for children’s research. Within the existing government strategy to bring about closer integration of children’s research with core NHS activities, we would highlight following proposals and strategies as a means of achieving this end, as detailed in the full report.

We strongly believe that if we can achieve the national partnership working we have outlined in the report, we can make the UK a world leader in children’s research that will be of incalculable benefit to children, their life-long health, and the health of the nation and of successive generations.