Childhood obesityHealthcare professionals are warning that unless there is an overhaul of unscheduled care services, there is a risk that growing demand will result in poorer outcomes for children.

Facing the Future: Together for Child Health says that to deal with these pressures, and to improve child health outcomes, not only do unscheduled care services need more investment, but there also needs to be a shake-up of how services are designed, with more children being cared for outside the hospital, in the community and closer to their home.

The new set of standards produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health states that:
• Every child should have timely access to high-quality unscheduled care services
• No child should be in hospital when care can be provided to an equivalent or better standard outside the hospital
• Service providers, planners, commissioners and users should work together across hospital and community services, primary and secondary care and paediatrics and general practice to design and deliver efficient and effective unscheduled care in a geographical network which is responsive to the needs of local children and their parents and carers.

Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The vast majority of children’s illnesses are minor and require little or no medical intervention. So a significant number of these attendances at the emergency department are unnecessary – and putting extra pressure on the system and causing undue distress and disruption for families.

“But of course every attendance means that a parent is worried about their child’s health, and either unable or unsure about how to access a more appropriate service. We therefore need to help patients navigate the options available to them and to get the most appropriate care – but also make sure that those services, and the healthcare professionals who deliver them, are fully skilled and best equipped to provide the best possible care.”

The Facing the Future: Together for Child Health standards are designed to improve healthcare services for children and ensure that specialist child health expertise and support are available to strengthen primary care services, supporting GPs to care for children safely in the community.