Public health cuts pose risk to children’s health

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published a new report warning that political uncertainty and public health cuts pose risk to progress in child health policy.

The State of Child Health: Two Years On report highlights progress made against the policy recommendations made in the first State of Child Health report in 2017, with doctors quoted as saying that they are ‘witnessing a hugely welcome shift towards the prioritisation of child health’. However, they have warned that child poverty, ongoing cuts to public health services and uncertainties about Brexit pose substantial threats to progress.

The college’s latest scorecard recognises improvements in child and adolescent mental health, government efforts to tackle childhood obesity and reducing child deaths. But the report also found that England continues to lag behind other Western European countries on a range of child health outcomes, including reducing child poverty and inequality, child deaths, tobacco and alcohol control and breastfeeding.

Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: “This scorecard reveals great progress for child health. We are particularly pleased to see children feature as an integral part in the recently published NHS Long Term Plan. We are witnessing a hugely welcome shift towards the prioritisation of child health, which is exciting not just for us as paediatricians, but for the health prospects of children today and generations to come.

“But there are significant risks on the horizon. The political uncertainty caused by Brexit looms large, raising legitimate concerns about recruiting enough children’s doctors and nurses and access to medicines and to EU funding for vital child health research. Government must act now to ensure a focus on the children’s workforce and investment in child health research are prioritised to mitigate the potentially damaging impact of Brexit.”

Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This report rightly reinforces our call for public health funding reductions to be reversed, in order to help councils protect children’s health and reduce inequalities. Local authorities play a crucial role in improving children’s health, from health visitors supporting new parents to weight management and sexual health services. Councils, alongside other partners have made good progress on tackling childhood obesity.

“Public health services face a £700 million real terms reduction in funding from central government. Councils need to be properly resourced if they are to continue to carry out these vital responsibilities. Otherwise the progress made in recent years in improving our children’s health could stall and raise the risk of ill-health in the next generation.”

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