Government launches forum to develop child health strategy

The Department of Health has unveiled a children and young people’s health forum to be charged with developing a child health strategy over the next three months.

The forum will be jointly chaired by Professor Ian Lewis, medical director at the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, and Christine Lenehan, director at the Council for Disabled Children, and will include health experts from local government, the NHS and charities.

The group will be expected to come up with a strategy that focuses on improving health outcomes for children, including those needing primary, hospital and urgent care, and children with long-term conditions.

As part of this, the forum will canvas the views of children, parents, carers and professionals to identify the health issues that matter most to children, and consider how a modern NHS should cater to their needs.

Lewis said the forum is a welcome opportunity to focus on how children and young people will be affected by the NHS reforms. “It’s a genuine chance to make a difference to improve the availability and quality of healthcare provided to them by the NHS,” he said.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley added: “We will bring together people and resources from across the NHS, social care and wider children’s services to develop a clear set of goals to give all children the right start in life.

“By intervening early we will be to able to influence patterns of behaviour and can ensure that children and young people get the quality of care, services and support that they deserve.”

David Congdon, board member of campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters, welcomed Lansley’s commitment to make child health a high priority for the NHS.

But he warned: “We are clear that this must not be a talking shop. The government must ensure that swift action is taken in response to the recommendations of the forum to ensure that the current health reforms do not exacerbate the negative experiences of families with disabled children.”

The children’s and young people’s health forum, which is based on the NHS Future Forum model, will spend three months consulting stakeholders before submitting its recommendations to government later in the year.

It will build on work already planned through the health and wellbeing board learning network and the SEN (special educational needs) and disability pathfinder programme.