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Ruth Hudson, Amy Frounks and Kath Evans explain why the first ever survey of children and young people on health care is such a major step forward:
In a typical year…
- Up to half of infants under 12 months and one quarter of older children will attend A&E
- One in 11 children will be referred to a hospital outpatient clinic
- One in 10 to 15 children will be admitted to hospital
- One in 1,000 children will require intensive care
Behind each of these admissions or attendances is a child or young person with a story to tell about their experiences of the NHS.
These are the stories that are seldom heard.
The 15 million children and young people across England who use the NHS think this needs to change, and their stories are waiting to be heard by commissioners and providers of services to help them to drive change and improvement.
The NHS Survey programme in England gives people who have recently used NHS services an opportunity to share their experiences. This has previously focussed around listening to the experiences of adults only. However, today sees the publication of the first National Children’s Inpatient and Day Case Survey.
The survey is made up of three separate questionnaires which capture the experiences of children of different ages. These include:
- 0-7 year olds parent’s survey
- 8-11 year olds child and parent’s survey
- 12-15 year olds young people’s and parent’s survey
Age appropriate questionnaires allow children and young people to speak for themselves and shows a real commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12 which states that children and young people have a right to have their views heard in all matters affecting them and for those views to be taken seriously.
Amy Frounks, a member of the NHS Youth forum and a user of Children’s Services says: “Children, just like adults, desire patient centred care and have valid thoughts and feelings that need to be listened to.
“After spending time as an inpatient on paediatric wards, I can vouch that younger people have a different outlook on life and different interpretations as to what good quality care consists of, in comparison to parents or carers.
“It’s essential to gain that insight from a child’s perspective and collate the information to inform NHS services on what is good, and equally how they can improve the service. Without listening to children alongside adults, how can we truly improve services to suit all?
“When a child or young person gives feedback, the process of receiving information of action validates to the individual that their thoughts are appreciated and can give a sense of empowerment. If the result of the feedback is shared to the individual, then why not do it in a way that the person can understand? This demonstrates that the NHS service providers really want to cater for the new generations in an appropriate format.”
Kath Evans, NHS England’s Head of Patient Experience for Children and Young People adds: “We have the policy drivers in place to focus us on the importance of seeking the experiences of care from children and young people.
“The Health and Social Care Act (2012) commits us to involving the public of all ages in their own health care and in the delivery of services. This survey has provided the opportunity to hear if we’re delivering on these policies by seeking feedback specifically from children, young people and families.
“Our challenge now is to take action on that feedback. Our children and young people deserve the very best health care experiences. It’s within our gift to deliver them. What is needed is focus and commitment.
“The poorer experiences highlighted by those with complex and mental health needs cared for in general inpatient settings requires our urgent attention.
“It’s also vital we continue to seek out and hear the stories from children and young people who are often unheard. Children, young people and families from black and minority ethnic communities and those with complex and learning disabilities deserve ongoing attention by local communities. We look forward to seeing improved results.
“Importantly children, young people and families need to hear feedback about the improvements we all make in the year ahead and we need to involve our communities in identifying solutions to the challenges they’ve raised. How will you do this? If we all work together we can make improvement happen and that’s no fairy story”.
The NHS belongs to us all. This very much includes children and young people. Please take the time to review the results of first national children’s inpatient and day case survey.