NHS Long Term Plan: The verdict for children and young people with serious health needs
Posted on the 10th January 2019
The NHS Long Term Plan, published this week by the Government, set out the vision and strategy for the next 10 years of the NHS in England. But what does it mean for our growing population of children, young people and their families living with long term serious health needs?
Redesigning the NHS service model so that more people can be cared for at home, or closer to home is directly in line with WellChild’s mission and strategy, but it must factor in the specific needs of children and young people living with long term serious health needs and their families. This new service model cannot be a model for adult care alone.
Greater recognition and support for unpaid carers within the plan and moves to enhance the experience of families is a positive step. With growing numbers of families providing high levels of 24/7 care at home to medically complex children, this must be matched with good quality and ongoing training, support and respite services to further avoid unnecessary hospitalisation and to prevent families from hitting crisis point.
We welcome moves to change how transition to adult services is managed – moving towards more person-centric care, rather than arbitrary transition to adult services based on age and we look forward to understanding how this will be implemented for young people living with complex medical needs.
Children’s health needs are to be intensified and given higher priority at a national level, which is a positive step. We welcome measures to give children a stronger start in life, improving survival rates and reducing serious brain injury. With more children surviving and living longer with increasingly complex medical needs, we must match these ambitions with a workforce and social care plan to support and empower parents and families who will be required to take on 24/7 complex care responsibility throughout their child’s life.
A renewed commitment to grow investment in mental health services faster than the NHS budget overall is good news. We know the immense pressure that 24/7 complex medical care can have on the emotional resilience of parents and carers. However, in addition to increased mental health investment, we must recognise that we can prevent and alleviate much of this emotional strain through improvements in early intervention around areas such as community support, training and access to respite. This includes investment in key workers to alleviate pressure, improve resilience and help prevent families reaching crisis point.
Whilst the extra funding path for the NHS of 3.4% on average for the next five years will always be welcome, it does not tell us how the Government will directly address the crisis in health provision for disabled children and young people. In particular, how it will meet the £1.5 billion annual shortfall in funding highlighted by the Disabled Children’s Partnership.
The plan identifies a number of opportunities for the use of digital technology for improving our understanding, creating more integrated data sets and for empowering people to take more control over their care. These are all welcome ideas that could be transformational in an environment where national data sets on the needs of children and young people are sorely lacking and as we look to better empower families to care at home. They are ambitious plans and we look forward to seeing urgent action in this area.
Realising many of the ambitions within this plan for children, young people and their families will require a strong and robust children’s health community workforce. It will also require an equally matched social care plan and budget that addresses how parents and carers will be properly supported.
Colin Dyer, CEO at WellChild
Colin Dyer, Chief Executive of WellChild said: “Realising many of the ambitions within this plan for children, young people and their families will require a strong and robust children’s health community workforce. We therefore look forward to hearing more about the workforce implementation plan and budget in due course. It will also require an equally matched social care plan and budget that addresses how parents and carers will be properly supported and empowered to take on increasing 24/7 complex medical care responsibilities at home. High quality training and access to respite services is critical to this, yet is not adequately addressed in the new NHS plan”.
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