The NHS is failing to provide basic care to disabled children despite a £340m cash injection from the government from 2008-11, campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters said today.
In a report, Disabled Children and Health, it said that parents were struggling to obtain essential specialist equipment as well as therapy, continence and short break services. Some parents reported waiting for years before finally receiving a wheelchair for their child.
Social care and health agencies were accused of routinely “passing the buck” and failing to take responsibility for offering services to disabled children. Mainstream health professionals such as GPs and dentists were also criticised for their “inappropriate” attitudes and their lack of training in dealing with disabled children.
EDCM blamed the situation on a “widespread confusion” among PCTs over their responsibility to support disabled children and their failure to implement national priorities set out by the government.
In February the Department of Health announced a £340m funding boost for PCTs’ disabled children services from 2008-9 to 2010-1 as part of a wider children’s health strategy. However, EDCM found that many PCTs were unable to identify where the money was being spent and that there was a lack of consistency in the services being offered across the country.
Unlike the £430m money given to local authorities over the same period under the Aiming High for Disabled Children strategy, the funding for PCTs is not ring-fenced.
EDCM called on the Department of Health to crack down on PCTs that were not spending on services for children with disabilities and to take on a “stricter role” in monitoring their annual operating plans.
It also made a case for establishing a strategic lead for services for disabled children – including those with complex health needs – in every PCT by December 2009 and urged all staff working with children to be given disability equality training.
Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children and EDCM board member, said that the extra funding had been welcomed. She added: “But in the context of a devolved NHS this will only make a difference to the lives of disabled children if every PCT demonstrates strong leadership and has a clear accountability for disabled children’s services.”
NHS boss: PCTs must be transparent
David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCT Network, said it was important that trusts were “transparent in their decision-making and disclose how much funding they dedicate to improving services for disabled children, alongside other services”.
He added: ““All PCTs will want to continue to improve services for disabled children, but each has a different starting point. Every PCT needs to balance their priorities across a wide range of services provided.”
Earlier this month, children’s secretary Ed Balls said that in September all PCTs would be required to report on how much of the £340m they would be spending on short breaks from 2008-11.