A leading paediatrician is warning that around 100 Scots children will die from preventable causes in 2019 unless the Scottish Government turn strategy into action.
Professor Steve Turner made the comments as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) marked the two-year anniversary of their landmark report into the state of child health in Scotland.
The revelation that so many youngsters would die was described as “shameful” by opposition parties.
Although acknowledging the Scottish Government’s “bold plans” to adress the three major barriers to good child health – poverty, obesity and mental health – the RCPCH highlighted key setbacks in other areas.
These include no movement in funding mandatory child health training for GPs despite a quarter of patients being under 19 and no provision for children and young people with long-term condiitons to be assigned a named doctor or health professional something the RCPCH is ‘crucial’ for conttinuity of care.
Professor Turner said that unlike England and Wales, there is no system to learn from preventable deaths despite the Scottish Government making progress towards the introduction of a Child Death Review Process for Scotland.
According to RCPCH, preventable causes include accidents in the home (due to poor safety), chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, infections, traffic accidents and poor mental health potentially resulting in suicide.
Professor Turner said: “In 2019 approximately 100 children will die from preventable causes in Scotland. As a priority, we need to identify why these deaths occur and to take action.
“Scotland currently has some of the worst outcomes for child health in Europe, but as our scorecard shows, the government is working hard to turn this around. However, strategy needs to turn to action.
“The gap in health outcomes between the richest and poorest communities in Scotland is widening, and that has a detrimental effect on rates of childhood obesity, mental health and mortality, particularly for Scotland’s most vulnerable families. Without timely and effected change, many more of Scotland’s youngsters will join the 230,000 children already living in poverty and their health will undoubtedly suffer as a result.”
Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP, said: “We now need to see radical action from ministers and dramatically improved outcomes – 100 preventable child deaths are expected to occur in Scotland this year and that is shameful. Scottish Labour backs calls for a review process for preventable child deaths, and the Scottish Government must be bolder in tackling the unacceptable gap between the richest and the poorest in our society.”
The RCPCH praised the Scottish Government for its commitment to child health, specifically around areas including childhood obesity rates, breastfeeding rates and women’s health during pregnancy.
Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We welcome the recognition from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health that we are making good progress across a wide range of measures.
“We are looking seriously at how we address obesity, not just among children, but are also absolutely clear that to improve people’s health, we also need to care for mental health and look at the impact of poverty.”