Improving UK baby and child development with digitised health records

Improving UK baby and child development with digitised health records
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New, digitised child health records are to be introduced following the publication of a UK government review which aims to help babies and children get a better start in life by reducing inequalities.

The ‘Best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days early years‘ review, led by Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP, sets out a vision for best practice across the health system to ensure babies and children can get the best possible start in the first 1,001 days of life.

This is a critical period for babies according to leading child health experts. They say it has more influence on a child’s future than any other time in their life, impacting on health, wellbeing, and opportunities of children throughout life.

Digitising children’s health records

Babies and young children that live in the lowest socio-economic group households have significantly worse health outcomes than other children which can be caused by stress and smoking in pregnancy, as well as communication problems due to language inequalities.

To tackle this inequality and give children the best start, the government will be working with NHSX in consultation with parents to make sure families can access their children’s data and easily share it with appropriate healthcare professionals.

This will be done by digitising personal child health records, commonly known as the ‘red book’, which contains babies’ details and information about their growth and development. This will ensure information is easier to store, protect it from being lost and make it easier to share with medical staff, and will apply to every new birth from April 2023.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I believe in the value that every single person has to offer, and I want every child to reach their full potential. Everybody should have a solid foundation on which to build their health and we are determined to level up the opportunities for children, no matter their background or where they grow up.

“I want to thank Andrea Leadsom for this inspirational and important report. Through her ‘action areas’, we will reduce the barriers and improve early childhood experiences – and we’re already making a start by bringing forward our commitment to digitise the red book by April 2023.”

Supporting children and families

To ensure the youngest members of society and the families who nurture and care for them are given the help and support they need to ensure they can fulfil their potential in the future, the review has focused on six key areas.

These include:

  • Support for families, whereby local authorities will be encouraged to publish a clear Start for Life offer for parents in their area to make them aware of what support they can expect
  • A welcome hub for families to access Start for Life services, such as childcare, early education, healthcare, and advice on jobs and training
  • Information for families when they need it including the design of digital, virtual, and telephone services
  • A Start for Life workforce to meet the changing needs of families with babies
  • Improving the Start for Life offer including data, evaluation, and outcomes to ensure they are meeting a family’s needs
  • Leadership for change, which will work to encourage local areas to nominate a leader and to ensure the delivery of the review is overseen at a national level
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