The government's programme of healthcare reform has failed to take proper account of the needs of children and could even worsen current inefficiencies in care, claim a group of experts writing in the British Medical Journal.

The authors, which include both medical professionals and academics, looked at the picture of childcare across Europe and found that not only does the UK lag behind its continental peers in many respects, but that the new Health and Social Care Bill "is unlikely to deliver the improvements in children’s health services that are urgently needed".

Health services in the UK are too often providing poor outcomes and look to be orchestrated around the needs of organisations as opposed to young patients and their families, they say.

In addition, service models in the country are already "inefficient and wasteful", but the government's current plans for the NHS do not fully recognise the special requirements of the young and fail to "adequately acknowledge" several important recommendations made by Ian Kennedy in his review of children’s healthcare last year.

Inexperienced doctors

The article notes that children account for around 25% of a general practice population but about 40% of its workload, but while many senior general practitioners have garnered extensive experience of paediatrics, fewer trainees now have training in the field and so lack the expertise to deal with child issues, and errors by staff with inadequate training or supervision are common.

Moreover, current issues in the UK with urgent care for children will not be solved by handing over commissioning power to GPs, while increasing competition - another key aspect of the government's plans for health services - actually risks fragmenting services for long-term conditions, the report argues.

Instead, integrated teams of jointly trained GPs and paediatricians, working alongside a wide scope of other medical professionals, should be set up in primary care to handle the majority of children's healthcare. This, the authors claim, will help to prevent unnecessary and costly referrals and admissions, while improving the accuracy of diagnoses and, ultimately, the patient experience.