New health maps to drive children's health improvements

Published on Thursday, 15 March 2012 06:44
Posted by Scott Buckler

The differences in health services for children across the country have been laid bare for the first time

The NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare for Children and Young People maps out the variation in healthcare for 27 different child health issues across England.

The Atlas shows:

  •     Breastfeeding: There is a three-fold variation in breastfeeding rates for babies aged 6-8 weeks across the country.
  •     Asthma: Variation in the treatment of child asthma has increased. In 2008/09, there was a four-fold variation in the rate of children admitted for emergency hospital treatment – by 2009/10, that had risen to a five-fold variation.
  •     Epilepsy: There is a four-fold variation in the emergency admission rate for children with epilepsy.
  •     A&E: There is a 3.5-fold variation in A&E attendance for children aged 0-4.
  •     Diabetes: There is a 2.6-fold variation in the percentage of children with diabetes admitted to hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis – a serious emergency condition that can lead to coma or even death if Type 1 diabetes is not properly managed.
  •     Tonsillectomies: There is almost a three-fold variation in the rate of elective tonsillectomies in children aged 0-17.

Although variation in services can be a sign of services being tailored to the needs to local patients, unwarranted variation - which cannot be explained by variation in patient illness or preferences - is not acceptable. The Atlas of Variation will help hospitals, community services, Primary Care Trusts and emerging Clinical Commissioning Groups to see how their area compares to others around the country, analyse the reasons why and if necessary put plans in place to make improvements.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“We have published these maps to shine a light on unjustified variation in the most essential services for children and young people across the country.

“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.

“That is also why we are bringing together people from across the NHS, social care and wider children’s services to develop a Children’s and Young People’s Outcomes Strategy – a clear set of goals to give all children the right start in life.”

Dr Sheila Shribman, the 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.

“The Atlas sets out the platform from which local child health commissioners and clinicians should be inspired to evaluate and most of all improve the quality of their care and results for patients.

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