DH maps 'unacceptable' child healthcare gaps

The DH has mapped variations in child healthcare in a bid to encourage GP commissioners to stamp out postcode lotteries across England.

A child having a blood test for diabetes
A child having a blood test for diabetes

The NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare for Children and Young People was published for the first time by the DH this week.

Initial findings show that emergency admissions for asthma among children varied five-fold across PCTs in England in 2009/10. Epilepsy admissions varied four-fold, and diabetic ketoacidosis presentations 2.6-fold.

The DH wants GP commissioners to compare their area with others and look at how they can improve to eliminate 'unacceptable' variations.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said he had published the maps to ‘shine a light on unjustified variation’ in child healthcare.

‘The challenge for the NHS is for every service to get to the level of the best. Local hospitals, services and commissioners will only know where they need to take action to improve services for their patients if they can see how other parts of the country are performing,’ he said.

Dr Sheila Shribman, national clinical director for children, young people and maternity services, said: ‘Tackling unwarranted variation can help the NHS to provide better care, reduce waste and make sure that all children and young people get the best possible results from their care.’

Commenting on the wide variation in child diabetes care, Anna Morton, director of NHS Diabetes, said England was performing poorly compared with the rest of Europe.

She said new standards produced in collaboration with Paediatric Diabetes Networks and the DH would be rolled out next month to improve outcomes.

David Ford, chief executive of the charity Young Epilepsy, said the four-fold variation in emergency admissions for children with epilepsy was 'unacceptable'.

'This is not just about facts and figures but about dramatic differences in the quality of a child’s life,' he said. 'Children are entitled to the best possible care, no matter where they live.'

He urged commissioners to use the findings to review clinical pathways.

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