Awaiting the child health strategy
By Paul Ennals, chief executive of NCB
Wednesday 29 January 2009
Will 2009 see any real progress in joining up
approaches to improving child health? Eighteen months ago, The
Children's Plan set out the importance of integrating local
approaches to child health, and promised a child health strategy in
the spring of 2008.
Now, as the first green shoots of spring 2009 appear, there is
still no strategy. It is not as if we are short of government
strategies. But the child health strategy has carried more
importance than most. Ever since Every Child Matters was published,
the greatest challenge to joined-up planning has been the chasm of
understanding between the NHS and children's services.
The next great opportunity to demonstrate a shared approach is
the primary care trust (PCT) plans for 2009/10. These are being
finalised across the country, and the child health strategy was
intended to provide a powerful message as to how they should
look. PCTs are using the NHS Operating Framework as guidance,
which makes it clear that children's health - especially tackling
obesity - has to be one of the priorities for the year ahead. But
we have all been awaiting the child health strategy to make clear
how this priority should be translated into firm plans for local
The delays in publishing the strategy are no longer acceptable.
Everyone accepts the pressure on government to make sure they are
not committing to things budgets cannot cover. But the biggest
improvements to child health do not rely on more money. They rely
on a truly integrated approach, across health and children's
services, to setting priorities and delivering services.
The Department of Health and the Department for Children,
Schools and Families need to provide a clear steer to PCTs as to
how they expect the 2009/10 plans to address children's needs. If
they can't publish the strategy, they need to advise PCTs in some
other way. We cannot afford another year of divergent planning.