Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 3:45 pm, 8th March 2012

My Lords, I added my name to these amendments because I agree with all the comments that the noble Baroness has just made. Children and young people are stakeholders in health. They are also the future of our nation. They may be dependent at the moment while they are children and young people, but they are the leaders of the future. They have specific needs and their own views about they way that they are treated. If they are not listened to and considered in the way that services are planned, they will continue to feel that they are not valued as much as they should be by healthcare itself and that healthcare is not really placing their needs at its heart in provision.

In the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health handbook called My Right to the Highest Standard of Health, Professor Terence Stephenson wrote,

"we cannot afford to continue as we are. The health of our children is at stake and we need to address real issues, with real change that brings about real positive impact on the health outcomes for children and young people".

Children and young people must no longer be treated as passive recipients of services. It is by feeling valued that their well-being will be increased. Particularly in prevention in healthcare, the engagement of young people is critical to ensure that health improvement policies and the whole public health agenda are taken up by the very group of people who will get the most benefit from them and will be most harmed if public health measures fail-that is, those who are in adolescence and about to transition into early adulthood.

Until now, unfortunately, as has already been said, some LINks have not seen fit for their remit to include children. Through these amendments, I seek reassurance from the Minister that healthwatch will be provided with the resources, knowledge and capacity to involve children and young people effectively and will therefore be able to represent their needs and interests on a local and national level. It cannot be viewed as a tokenistic voice.

I shall cite an unfortunate example that the RCPCH has brought to my attention. A large teaching hospital trust was preparing an application for foundation trust status. As part of the process it was asked to show evidence of patient and public participation, including the involvement of children and young people. In response to this, the trust asked for some young people who were in-patients to receive a patient satisfaction questionnaire. A number of young people completed the questionnaire as requested, but the results were not used during the foundation trust application as the opinions voiced by the young people were at odds with the views of the management team. That is a clear example of tokenistic consultation but then doing nothing about the answers that are received.

Children are able to contribute in a very generous way to the shaping of healthcare services because they will comment quite openly, not only on what they need and what would make their journey through health better but on the experience of others that they encounter on the way. Children and young people with chronic conditions will form close friendships and bonds with other patients in their cohort, whom they will meet regularly when they attend different treatment sessions, and will be concerned about the welfare of those other children. In the days when I was working in paediatrics, I recall vividly how children in the leukaemic unit would ask about the welfare of other children. They would want to know what had happened to a child who had died and to talk about where that child had gone. One little boy commented on another, "At least now he'll be able to do what he always wanted to do. He'll be playing football, but it'll be in heaven".

Children know what they need, where they want to go and how they want to be involved and consulted. The whole tenor of our health services can be greatly improved by actively seeking out their views and acting on them, however difficult and uncomfortable those views might be.