The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Reforms will put vulnerable children ‘at risk’

NHS Confederation warns of ‘fragmented’ system

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 26 April 2012

There is ‘deep unease’ that NHS reforms will create a ‘confusing, fragmented and riskier system’ in the way children are protected and kept healthy.

This was the warning given this week at the NHS Confederation’s conference in Coventry on the health and healthcare of children in the new NHS system.

Currently in the NHS, child protection - also known as safeguarding - and child health are commissioned and provided by local councils and NHS primary care trusts (PCTs).

In reforming the NHS, this responsibility will be divided up amongst four different organisations spread over six different geographical levels that range from local to national.

The conference heard that the government is still to clarify who will take over some responsibilities, including which organisation locally will have the overall responsibility for providing specialist safeguarding services.

Speaking ahead of the event, NHS Confederation deputy policy director Jo Webber said: "We have ample evidence from the past of what goes wrong when organisations are not coordinated to work together properly.

"Through joint work between councils and the NHS, we have made great strides since then. There is deep unease in the NHS that, in reorganising the system, we are resetting to a model that is potentially riskier and certainly more fragmented.

"The Government is right to try and devolve power to the lowest level possible. But outcomes for protecting children should not vary. The safety and health of some of the most vulnerable people in our society cannot be subject to local discretion.

"Vulnerable children with complex needs will now find the responsibility for their care and their safety spread out between a range of organisations - and on the NHS side, all of them will be completely new.

"We know through painful experience that it is between the gaps in responsibilities that the most tragic and difficult cases fall.

"With nothing making these organisations work together in the way they should, we have to be honest that the risk of us failing is more likely.

"Nobody here today wants that to happen. The time has come to be honest with Government and together now resolve these issues before a policy problem becomes a tragic failure."

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470