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New guidance for commissioners of child health services

New guidance for commissioners of child health services

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A vision of what children’s health should look like from a primary care perspective has been released by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). 

The intercollegiate approach to improving local provision of child health services suggest placing GPs at the centre.

Around a quarter of a GP’s patients are under 19 years of age, with this group representing more than 20% of the UK population. 

Commissioning a Good Child Health Service suggests that GPs should be placed firmly at the centre of a multidisciplinary team, collaborating with local voluntary and authority partners as well as community and acute care services.

RCGP chair Clare Gerada believes GPs are ready to take on this role. 

She said: “Commissioning of services within this area presents us with many challenges but also crucially many golden opportunities to get it right for these patients and to really make every contact count.  

“There is an increasing perception that GPs are spending less time looking after children.  Significant numbers of children are also living poverty and experience poor access to good health care.   

She added: “Providing trainee GPs with more experience of paediatric and child health is one of the tenets on which the RCGP’s current case for extended and enhanced GP training is built.”

The working party which developed the guidance has aimed to ‘light a path for commissioners’ promoting key areas for them to address as local strategies are developed and services commissioned, including: inappropriate A&E attendances; prenatal and adolescent mental health issues; neonatal feeding problems; children with chronic and long term illness; school issues; and safeguarding and the needs of looked after children.

The document also places strong emphasis on accountability, encouraging all stakeholders to take responsibility for local care through an agreed annual delivery plan within key delivery areas.   

The document also recommends a systems overhaul, including IT systems, to ensure all aspects of a child’s ‘journey’ are as efficient and effective as possible.

The document is the result of close collaboration between the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), with the support of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Department of Health.

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “For the majority of children who fall ill, their first contact with a healthcare professional is with their GP.  So it’s crucial that GPs are equipped with  the knowledge and tools to treat children and refer them onwards  if needed to get the most appropriate care.

“GPs need to be bold in their commissioning decisions and work with colleagues across the healthcare profession to transform care delivery services and outcomes. If we can get things right for children then we’ll reap our reward in a healthier nation.”

The guidance – Commissioning a Good Child Health Service – is freely available online.

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