Health leaders have warned that children are being put at risk as community services struggle to keep up with demands.
The Community Network survey by the NHS Confederation found that all respondents were either moderately or extremely concerned about the impact of long waits for community children and young people’s services.
Children and young people are facing long waits for essential services including speech and language therapy, autism diagnoses and community paediatric services.
With some waiting an estimated 40 weeks for an initial assessment of a neurodevelopment pathway and then waiting a further 32 weeks for treatment.
To read more on this topic please visit:
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: ‘Expecting a child and their family to have to wait, sometimes for years, for diagnosis, let alone treatment, is completely unacceptable. No one should endure waits this long, let alone a child whose development and maturity could be severely delayed as a result.
‘Children and young people’s community services are now under extraordinary pressure , and we must see them given the same level of priority as the elective backlog, coupled with action from across government.’
Long waits often impact children more severely than adults as delays in assessments and treatments can have knock-on effects on communication skills, social development and education outcomes.
They also exacerbate health inequalities and disproportionately impact vulnerable families.
That is why community providers have called for greater investment in early intervention, support for the workforce required to respond to growing demand and more coordinated action in support of children and young people across government.
Siobhan Melia, chief executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Community Network said: ‘Nearly all community health leaders told us that they were concerned about the impact these kinds of waits were having on staff morale, but in order to get these waits down, we need more staff. Children and young people’s community services must not be forgotten by the government in the workforce plan.’