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Children’s development at risk due to wait lists, health leaders warn

Children’s development at risk due to wait lists, health leaders warn
By Jess Hacker
1 June 2023

Delays to care and extraordinary waiting lists for community services risk putting children’s health at risk, particularly if development windows are missed, health leaders have warned.

The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers survey (30 May) highlighted that the most common consequence of long waits for community services on children, according to respondents, were delays in social development, education and communication.

As many as 100% of community provider leaders surveyed agreed they were moderately (23%) or extremely (77%) concerned about the impact of long waits for these services, with a further 72% worried about the toll it takes on staff morale.

Respondents also estimated a waiting time of 40 weeks for initial assessment of a neurodevelopmental pathway and a waiting time of a further 32 weeks for treatment, with 88% reporting that current waiting times have increased compared to before the pandemic.

Leaders called for more national funding similar to the Elective Recovery Fund, with particular investment in prevention and early intervention.

They also highlighted the need for a pipeline of the right number and skills mix of staff to keep pace with rising demand, adding that this should be set out in the incoming workforce plan.

Community providers also said they valued the role of partnerships within integrated care systems (ICSs) in reducing waiting times for children and young people’s community services.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘We know that leaders and teams in community services are doing all they can to drive down waits and see, diagnose and treat as many children and young people as possible, but they can only do so much.

‘Children and young people’s community services are now under extraordinary pressure , and we must see them  given the same level of priority as the elective backlog, coupled with action from across government.’

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy of NHS Providers, said: ‘More investment, co-ordinated support and a more coherent national policy framework, is needed for these vital community services. Without it, too many children and young people will continue to miss the window for the right care when they need it most.’

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