What do babies, children, young people and families/carers who come from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds need from the NHS? As custodians of precious public resources allocated to healthcare its a fundamental question to challenge ourselves with, having a competent and compassionate workforce that can meet these needs now and in the future is essential.
Knowing that children, young people and families want to self care where possible, have access to high quality preventative care, reliable assessment and competent compassionate interventions, receive support locally and at home where possible with specialist support when needed, are key principles to work to. This population group are of course digital natives which is a critical consideration going forward for service planning and workforce development.
Having this clarity of purpose helps us design roles, recruit, educate and retain a workforce that is fit for purpose, across the public health, community/primary, secondary and tertiary care domains. Partnership working across provider NHS organisations in collaboration with users of services, education, the voluntary sector, and social care are also essential requirements as we go forward.
Taking all of these elements into consideration I returned this week to the work of the Children’s Outcomes Forum https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/410561/Theme_Group_report_Workforce.pdf and it helpfully summarises the layers of workforce provision to meet population needs whilst recognising children, young people and families/carers as the most significant assets in meeting their health care needs and achieving better health outcomes.
Since the work of the health outcomes forum new structures/roles have developed, including Primary Care Networks (PCNs), Nursing Associates, Physicians Associates, and Advanced Clinical Practice Roles have evolved. Mental Health needs along with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) have continued to increase, community violence is having a significant impact and the technical care skills continue to demand increasing levels of competence from professionals.
The support by charities such as Roald Dahl and Well Child in creating Specialist Nurse posts have had significant impact in creating better, consistent support for those children, young people and families who need it most.
Yet we are still not in the position of having an adequate number of professionals in the community who have the skills to meet the needs of children and young people. Putting a focus on Community Children’s Nursing, Special School Nursing leadership, School Nursing, Health Visiting and roles in Primary Care including Primary Care Networks (PCNs) that take a lead for CYP is vital if we’re to shift care from secondary and tertiary care centres.
Greater integration between mental and physical health is something we’re making progress on, with programmes such as ‘we can talk’, yet there is more to do in ensuring children’s nurses with mental health skills and mental health nurses with skills in child development, family centred care models work collaboratively to enhance care for CYP experiencing MH distress.
Youth workers are a valued addition to the NHS, we are seeing increasing numbers being appointed to teams and their impact in improving attendance at clinics and in improving outcomes is already having impact. We need to gather publish the impact these roles are having in caring for young people more holistically if we’re to grow this element of the workforce.
Along side increasing skills we also need to ensure we’re widening access into the NHS and creating pathways to employment. Volunteering opportunities and the creation of Nursing Associate role offer routes into securing a professional qualification
Of course whilst I’ve focused on nursing, Allied Health Professionals and Paediatricians are a vital element and this year the RCPCH have run a campaign #ChoosePaediatrics, which you can catch up with here https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/education-careers/careers-campaign
Complementing the people development is of course the opportunity digital developments offer us, the e-red book, digital passports, apps to support better self care, navigation to services. ‘Chat Health’ has offered increasing access to advice from school nurses and ‘Parent Chat’ is having impact too.
So as we head into 2020 keeping our focus on workforce development for this population group is going to be an ongoing priority, along with continued work to actively collaborate with the children, young people and families we serve so that the workforce reflects their needs, after all that’s what we’re all about.