Report highlights variations in healthcare for children

A NEW report by the NHS in England highlights wide regional variations in some healthcare services for children.

Among the regional differences revealed in the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare for Children and Young People is a four-fold variation among PCTs in emergency hospital admission rates for children with asthma, with over 600 per 100,000 population in some trusts compared to less 100 in others. Some of the widest variation can be found over neighbouring trusts in the London area.

Other areas of variation across the country included breastfeeding rates for babies aged 6-8 weeks (three-fold variation), emergency admission for both epilepsy (four-fold variation) and diabetic ketoacidosis (2.6 fold variation) and for elective tonsillectomy (three-fold variation).

The report acknowledges that variation can be a sign of services being tailored to the needs of local patients but warns that unwarranted variation which cannot be explained by variation in patient illness or preferences is not acceptable. It is hoped that the report will help hospitals, community services, PCTs and emerging Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) see how their area compares to others around the country, analyse the reasons why and if necessary put plans in place to make improvements.

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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