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Call to end child health inequality

Published 22/06/2015

The Royal College of Nursing said the Government needs to invest in child healthcare
The Royal College of Nursing said the Government needs to invest in child healthcare

The Government has been urged by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to reverse cuts to healthcare leading to higher rates of child poverty across the UK.

At the RCN's annual congress in Bournemouth, Dorset, delegates voted 99.5% in favour of a resolution that "RCN Congress calls on council to lobby all UK Governments to invest in our young people and end child health inequalities."

Professor Rod Thomson, director of public health in Shropshire and deputy president of RCN, said the Government needed to invest in child healthcare to ensure a healthy population.

He said: "You (the Government) do not understand the evidence base of children in poverty.

"Therefore reverse the policy, reverse all of these issues which are attacking the fundamental evidence that if we want healthy children, if we want a healthy population, we must invest in our people and in our parents."

Cat Forsyth, from Salford, said that in her city, there were only 15 school nurses for 32,000 children with 1.8 whole-time nurses for children with disabilities.

She told the congress: "This is not even just adequate, this Government needs to address commissioning of nurses for our children."

Another delegate, Rachel Hollis, said the UK had gone from one of the best countries in Europe for equality of child health care to one of the worst.

She said that figures show that in the UK, five children aged under 14 die each day who would not die in Sweden.

She added: "Children living in the poorest households are more likely to suffer poor physical and mental health.

"Children from deprived areas are twice as likely to be obese than affluent areas so more vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes."

The RCN congress agenda states that the number of children living in poverty has increased by 1.5 million in the past 50 years.

The agenda report also states that child welfare is unevenly spread across the UK with 200,000 children living in poverty in Wales, 80,000 children from working families in Scotland in poverty and Northern Ireland having a rate of 22% of children in poverty.

It says: "Poverty is not spread evenly across the country but is concentrated in particular regions.

"Last September's Centre for Local Economic Strategy's report on Health Equity indicated that a baby boy born in Manchester can expect to live 14 fewer years in good health than a boy born in Richmond in Surrey, if current rates of illness and mortality persist."

It adds: "A series of reports have noted the low importance given to children's health in the NHS.

"Reducing health inequalities and improving child health should be a priority for all UK Governments."

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