The government has announced plans for a new focus on improving health care for children and young people.

The Children's and Young People's Outcomes Strategy, to be unveiled later this year, will focus the NHS on improving outcomes for children, including those needing primary, hospital and urgent care, and children with long-term conditions. It will identify health issues that matter most to children and young people, and how a modern NHS will meet their needs, says the Department of Health.

The government's ambition for the Strategy "is a simple one - to improve outcomes for children and young people's health," said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

"We will bring together people and resources from across the NHS, social care and wider children's services to develop a clear set of goals to give all children the right start in life," he said.

"By intervening early, we will be able to influence patterns of behaviour and can ensure that children and young people get the quality of care, services and support they deserve," he added.

To inform the strategy, a group of independent experts from local government, the NHS and charities will hear views from children, parents, carers and wider families, as well as health professionals. The group, named the Children's and Young People's Forum, will operate as an equivalent to the NHS Future Forum listening exercise, tasked with creating a set of health service outcomes for child health and addressing longstanding system issues that prevent children from accessing universal and specialist care. 

The Forum will have 52 members, invited by the Health Secretary, who will meet once a month over a three-month (January-March) period of engagement with appropriate stakeholders, before reporting back and submitting their recommendations to the government later in the year.

The Forum is to be jointly chaired by Professor Ian Lewis, medical director at the Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust, and Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children (CDC).

Prof Lewis said he welcomed the opportunity to focus on children and young people in order to ensure that the modernisation of health services works well for them.

'It's a genuine chance to make a difference to improve the availability and quality of healthcare provided to them by the NHS," he added.

Ms Lenehan commented that "we have been asking government to address the Cinderella status of children's health services for some time and are delighted that they have picked up the gauntlet."

However, the NHS Confederation warns that while the government is "on the right course" by bringing in expertise to the Forum from across health and other local services, it risks creating a system that is not properly joined up and could fail children if it does not obtain input from the full range of professionals.

"We believe it would be even better if other departments were brought in to develop the framework," said Jo Webber, the Confederation's deputy policy director. "Buy-in from top to bottom is really important, especially when planning care for those children with the most complex needs," she added.

The new Forum "faces a real challenge. We need a new framework that is compatible both with the social care and public health outcomes frameworks, the mental health strategy and wider government policy so it genuinely works for children," said Ms Webber.