We can start improving children and young people’s healthcare | Mike McKean

Dr Mike McKean

Children and young people’s services are often left out of initiatives, development and funding. With the Long Term Plan and the advent of ICSs, this is set to improve. In the first of two blogs, Mike McKean, paediatrician and clinical director of the Great North Children’s Hospital explains more.

As a paediatrician I developed my practice in an NHS environment where doing more, working harder, and competition were the mantra. The latter meant that whatever organisation I rotated through in my training, it had to be better than those around it and this was done by seeking more work and with it more resource.

I am now in the senior years of my career and am proud to be a full-time paediatrician as well as clinical director for the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, one of the largest children’s hospitals in the UK. For some years I have realised two fundamental issues with our NHS: competition has disadvantages to many in health, and children and young people (CYP) are too often left out of initiatives, developments and funding so as to fit the description of being ‘second class citizens’ in our society. So, I have set out on a journey that tackles those issues.

In the last year we have witnessed a massive change in direction for the NHS, with a realisation that organisations would better serve the public by truly working together. The subsequent focus on prevention and early intervention with care as close to home as is possible is something that I believe in deeply. Not only that, the many highly specialised hospital practitioners I work with all understand and agree with this change of direction.

This has led to some remarkable changes that are occurring in the North East and North Cumbria (NENC). Like many regions, we have never had a funded regional network to support children’s services. But with the advent of new Integrated Care Systems, I have been asked to form a new network, the Child Health and Wellbeing Network.

This network is being developed with the aim of developing better relations across all sectors working with children, that is, not only hospitals but primary care, social care, schools and the voluntary sector. This is a truly novel approach to building relationships, supporting and spreading innovative ways to deliver healthcare, and increasing the profile of the fundamental importance of child health and wellbeing to all our futures. More so, our network aims to place the voice of CYP at its very core, ensuring we no longer ‘do to’ CYP but work in true partnership with them.

The engagement phase has led to the design of our ‘framework wheel’

Our network has developed through a unique process of engagement events, we have tried to create so much more than a network – we need a movement to truly start to make a difference to our young people. Understanding the voice and opinions of CYP in framing their priorities influenced our work from the start and a system leadership program has supported our core leaders who will help drive this work across their areas of the system. The engagement phase has led to the design of our ‘framework wheel’ (above) and our vision: “In the North East and North Cumbria we believe all children and young people should be given the opportunity to flourish and reach their potential, and be advantaged by organisations working together”.

In my next blog I will outline how we have developed our new network movement.

Mike McKean is paediatrician and clinical director for the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle. You can follow them on Twitter @NorthNetworks.

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