On Thursday, the Council for Disabled Children and the National Children’s Bureau brought together stakeholders and system leaders from across the children’s health system, including government departments, NHS England, Royal Colleges and professional bodies, as well as the voluntary sector and academic institutions for a meeting of the Child Health Alliance chaired by CDC Director, Dame Christine Lenehan.
The Alliance was founded by the Department of Health to look at how to build on the recommendations of the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum in the context of a changing health care system. This is in recognition of the significant changes to national health policy, strongly influenced by the drive to deliver the ambitions of the Five Year Forward View through structural reforms, new model of care vanguards and transformation programmes.
These changes have led to a growing complexity in the system that makes telling the story of children’s health in England increasingly difficult. The workshop was an opportunity to identify key priorities for action in the current health system, and give attendees the chance to highlight where progress was underway.
After sharing the purpose and objectives of the day the session was kicked off by eight young people from London and Cornwall, brought together by the Association of Young People’s Health. The young people set the ground rules for the day: respecting each other’s views; no talking over each other; and definitely no acronyms -which was particularly challenging!
After getting everyone signed up to the rules, the young people presented their view of what was working, and what needed changing in the health system.
There were some real positives. In particular, the potential use of peer education programmes, could make a positive difference. Also important were meaningful opportunities to be involved in shaping the services they used. However, both of these are not as available as they should be.
The young people set the big challenges they face when it comes to accessing the right age-appropriate services at the right time. This was put down to complex access criteria, disruptions caused by moving area or going to university, or the impact of funding cuts and long waiting times. The impact of these pressures left young people feeling like services were more interested in box ticking than seeing them as individuals who needed holistic support.
To address these issues young people wanted to see the health system focused around taking young people’s needs seriously, acting on their views and responding to their needs quickly - because as the young people pointed out, when you’re young “time is precious”, and problems with health would affect their education and development into adulthood.
The presentation finished with a video showing the impact of the Fitzrovia Youth in Action peer education programme:
The day then turned to how the system is responding to these powerful messages, and what more needs to be done.
To help everyone make sense of the complexity of the current health and social care system and identify the key areas for action each table were given a poster to graphically represent the health and care system. Keeping it DIY, everyone used markers and Post-its to explain what the different elements of the system were doing to make improvements, but also but also highlight where action was needed. The result was plenty of colourful posters describing the areas of good progress and pinpointing the priorities for action. Each table shared their top three priorities with the group, and these will be collated and shared as a report from the meeting.
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of CDC and Chair of the Alliance summed up the meeting thus:
“The enthusiasm in the room was testament to the desire to really move children’s health up the agenda, but the discussions also highlighted the scale of the challenge in an increasingly fragmented system. The complexity in the system is staggering and makes it difficult to see how children and young people fit across the system, and who is accountable for delivering the system that they deserve.
This is a new political environment and we need to think about new approaches, and will be working with our partners to build on the progress that’s being make and take these key priorities forward, as it was put today, we have to make a noise for children and young people’s health.”