The Royal College of Nursing has called for investment in children’s nurses “across all health settings”, in response to a report showing that the UK’s child mortality rate remains above those of many other European countries.
The next government should develop and implement a national children’s health strategy to bring down child mortality rates in the UK, said the Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum in its latest annual report today.
The forum was established by ministers in January 2012 as an independent expert advisory group from across the children’s sector.
“Sufficient investment in highly skilled registered children’s nurses across all settings will go a long way towards securing the health of future generations”
Its report said there was “good evidence” that it has raised the profile of children and young people’s health and has been “influential” in putting in place structures that will lead to improved outcomes over time.
But, despite some improvements, it said the evidence was “still telling us” that progress is at a slower rate in the UK, compared to other countries in northern and Western Europe.
The report noted that the gap was “perhaps most starkly illustrated” by comparing the UK with the Sweden, the country with the lowest mortality for children and young people.
“We find that in the UK every day five children under the age of 14 die who would not die in Sweden,” said the forum. “This equates to the alarming figure of 132,874 person years of life lost each year in the UK.”
Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said it was “distressing to see” that the health outcomes of UK children “still lag behind the best in Europe”.
“The need to improve health care provision for children and young people is very clear, not only in terms of the personal tragedies that are occurring but also the massive health problems we are storing up for the future,” he said.
“Sufficient investment in highly skilled registered children’s nurses across all settings will go a long way towards securing the health of future generations,” he said. “Action is needed, and it is needed now.”
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, noted that “considerable progress” had been made through the forum’s work with the healthcare care and the voluntary sector, but stated that “more still needs to be done”.
“Like the Forum, we call on the next government to urgently develop, and implement a strategy for improving the physical and mental health of children and young people,” she said.
“There now needs to be focused, coordinated effort on ensuring children are a priority within the health system, particularly in the context of an ageing population,” she added.