Programme for government “mixed bag” for child health

Children’s doctors says shortage of doctors and lack of training could hamper child poverty plans

Wednesday 4th September 2019

A leading group of paediatric doctors has said Nicola Sturgeon’s legislative plans for the next year are a “mixed bag” when it comes to children’s health.

Ms Sturgeon’s programme for government for the parliamentary year ahead included a new benefit to reduce child poverty and targeted support for disabled youngsters.

But the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health (RCPCH) Scotland said getting enough staff with the right training could be key to many of the commitments.

Professor Steve Turner of the RCPCH welcomed the early introduction of a top-up child poverty payment.

He said: “To children living in poverty every day is a day too long. These children are more likely to have negative health outcomes, to be born with low birth weight or fail to thrive and be exposed to risks that perpetuate ill health such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, parental drug or alcohol misuse and being in care.

However the Aberdeen academic said a new assistance payment for disabled children and young people could be knocked off course by a shortage of doctors.

He said: “With the process being reliant on access to community paediatricians for diagnosis, RCPCH Scotland is concerned that the are insufficient numbers of community paediatricians in disability which will ultimately lead to delays.

“Childhood disability is more common the more deprived a population, however in Glasgow, the most deprived population in Scotland; there are fewer community paediatricians per head of population rather than more.”

More widely, Prof Turner said GPs need more support so they can deal with childhood illness.

“GPs are the main healthcare providers for children,” he said. “Children are estimated to make up around 40% of a typical GPs workload but less than one in three GPs in the UK have post-graduate specialist paediatric training with little undergraduate exposure to paediatrics.”