Children and young people 22% of the population yet all of our future

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12 states Children and Young People have a right to have their views heard in all matters chi-con-logoaffecting them and for these to be taken seriously.  In February 2013 the Government pledged that ‘Children, Young People and their families would be at the heart of decision-making, with the health outcomes that matter most to them taking priority’. The NHS Outcomes Framework, NHS Mandate and Business plan commits to addressing this.

rep-front-covDr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner, challenged the NHS in her report ‘We would like to make a change’ stating:  ‘We found no coherent national programme of activity to proactively encourage local bodies to include children and young people in strategic health service commissioning or other vital decision-making about NHS provision’. Only 28% of 102 local health plans reviewed referenced children and young people’s participation in their development, the delivery of what was in them, or the evaluation of whether practice matched their aspirations.

UK Youth Parliament 2013 – Leeds #UKYP13 #OurNHS

On the 26th–28th July 250 young people along with 100 youth workers came together for the annual meeting of the Youth Parliament.  A small team from NHS England, including myself and my daughter, Rosie, Kath Evans from Patient Experience, Nagina Javaid from Public Voice and Tracy Grey from Equalities and Inequalities – joined them to capture their experiences and ideas about ensuring the NHS is sustainable for the future. Our participation toolkit was describes as the most interactive stall – glitter, glue, post its, bubbles, chat – along with some Haribos ensured we got lots of input!

There were lots of positive messages young people wanted to share:

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But there were also lots of ideas for improvement too:

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Importantly Young People want to help us to by helping to inspect services and by providing feedback to services:







Some areas have young inspectors, this needs to be routine!

All the young people we spoke to all had views and experiences to share, what’s clear is that the NHS needs to go to them and ensure young people know what’s changed as a result of their input.


We need to share with young people what we’re doing as a result of their input, close the loop!

It’s fuelled up our commitment for how we at NHS England need to establish of robust mechanisms and approaches to engage young people in all aspects of our work – commissioning services, policy and strategy development and leading the NHS system in partnership with CCGs.

Over the coming months we will develop proposals in partnership with The British Youth Council, National Children’s Bureau (NCB), National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) that will really bring young people’s voices and experiences to the heart of our work at NHS England. This work will connect with the early development of a Citizen’s Assembly – more on this later!

Friday 22nd November is Children’s Takeover Day which gives children and young people the chance to work with adults for the day and be involved in decision-making. Children benefit from the opportunity to experience the world of work and make their voices heard, while adults and organisations gain a fresh perspective on what they do.

We’ll tell you more about NHS England’s plans to join in with this soon but have a look at to find out more.

NHS England need to be a role model to all, both nationally and internationally in engaging young people, after all they are the future.

Olivia Butterworth

Olivia Butterworth is Head of Public Participation for NHS England and NHS Improvement.

She ensures the NHS works with citizens and communities to have a voice that influences the development, design and delivery of our health and care services.
Olivia is the national lead for the People and Communities workstream of the Primary Care Networks programme and was named in the HSJs Top 50 Innovators and the Top 50 Integrators in 2014. In 2018 she was named as one of the Top 70 NHS Stars.

She has a background in Community Development and education with a passion for empowering people to be their own change.

Olivia has worked with a wide and diverse range of voluntary sector organisations, both in paid and voluntary roles, providing support with organisational development, developing services, engagement, involvement and fundraising. Olivia is very proud to be a Trustee of Manchester based LGBT Foundation and a Non-Executive Director of Local Care Direct.

You can follow her on Twitter @LiviBF


  1. Sebastian Yuen says:

    Dear Olivia
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree it is so important for children, young people and their families to be engaged and help influence services. We need to listen with humility and genuine curiosity and understand how we can help them. We can no longer presume we know better and dictate solutions that would work for us. Really exciting to discover how many young people are already keen to make a difference. Please let me know who was from Nuneaton! It would be great to have them help us as we transform our service.

  2. Justine Thompson says:

    Such an important blog from Olivia Butterworth. This should be pride of place on the front of the NHS England website and an agenda item for the next NHS England Board.
    We are all thinking about the future sustainability and effectiveness of our beloved NHS. But, actually, the future is right here with us now: our children and young people must have a powerful voice and influence over plans and decisions taken to shape the changes and innovations to come. Engagement with children and young people – who understand the power of our digital future – is essential to build an NHS that meets the needs of everyone now and for generations to come.

  3. Kath Evans says:

    It’s fantastic to see that Children & Young People are taking such a prominent position in NHS England’s work programme.

    The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a key driver for this and we need to an exemplar for the rest of the world.

    Key document for all CCGs & Trusts include: