Senior paediatrician urges ministers to move from policies to action on child health

A senior paediatrician has urged the Scottish Government to move from policies to action to transform children’s health.

Professor Steve Turner made the comments as a scorecard marking the government’s progress two years on from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) State of Child Health: Scotland report was published.

The update notes significant progress against 17 of the 36 recommendations, including against what are seen as the major barriers to child health in Scotland – child poverty, obesity and mental health.

Among the policies praised are the Scottish Government’s plan to tackle child poverty, new birth and early years payments for lower-income families, an extra £250 million a year for mental health, a commitment to halving childhood obesity by 2030 and consulting on restricting junk food promotions.

Some progress is noted as being made against a further 12 recommendations while seven have recorded no progress, including Scottish Government funding of mandatory child health training for trainee GPs and giving every child with a long-term condition a named health professional.

The report warns the present situation of rising child poverty and a widening health gap between rich and poor children is “not acceptable”, and policies must now secure measurable improvements in child health.

Prof Turner (pictured), the RCPCH’s officer for Scotland, said: “Scotland currently has some of the worst outcomes for child health in Europe, but as our scorecard shows the government is working hard to turn this around.

“However, the government strategy now needs to turn to action.

“The gap in health outcomes between the richest and poorest communities in Scotland is widening, and that has a detrimental effect on rates of childhood obesity, mental health and mortality, particularly for Scotland’s most vulnerable families.

“Without timely and effected change, many more of Scotland’s youngsters will join the 230,000 children already living in poverty and their health will undoubtedly suffer as a result.”

He also called for the introduction of a Scotland-wide child death review process to help cut the number of children who die from preventable causes.

The Scottish Government has committed to bringing in a new national approach for effective, sensitive child death reviews by 2020.

Mr Turner said: “In 2019 approximately 100 children will die from preventable causes in Scotland.

“Unlike England and Wales, we do not have a system to learn from these tragedies.

“As a priority, we need to identify why these deaths occur and to take action.”

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We welcome the recognition from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health that we are making good progress across a wide range of measures.

“The Year of Young People 2018 was about giving young people a stronger voice and we’ve seen real progress in tackling the different inequalities that can put up barriers for too many young people.

“We are looking seriously at how we address obesity, not just among children, but are also absolutely clear that to improve people’s health, we also need to care for mental health and look at the impact of poverty.

“We are also working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Care Inspectorate to establish a national hub focused on the reviewing and learning from deaths of children and young people in Scotland.”

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