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Profile photo of a child looking pensive.

Sapfo Lignou, with collaborators at King’s College London and NHS child health specialists, has published a paper and blog exploring how health systems and policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic affected children with long-term conditions in the UK.

The paper shows that policy response to the pandemic significantly affected healthcare provision for children with chronic illness in the UK, identifying three categories of impact:

  • Impact of policy response on the delivery of and access to child healthcare
  • Impact of innovative practice on children’s physical and mental health
  • Impact of service restrictions on children’s physical health

However, it found that assessment of these impacts on children’s health and wellbeing is currently limited.

The blog summarises the results of the paper and finds that the combination of prioritising the emergency response to COVID and government guidance to the public, such as on shielding and remaining at home, had a significant effect on the way children with chronic conditions and their caregivers sought and accessed care. It highlights that although telemedicine helped meet the needs of many children, language barriers, disability, neurodiversity and digital disparities means many populations have been under-served.

The report concludes that the needs of children and young people have been neglected during the pandemic in favour of prioritising the COVID response, and that this will already have caused increased disease severity and greater health risk in children across various physical and mental health conditions.

Looking forwards, the authors recommend that greater consideration of the needs of children is required, particularly when evaluating NHS England’s response to the pandemic. Understanding the impact of the health system changes on paediatric patients is a vital step towards a more effective and equitable health system response to future emergencies.

Find out more about the project on our research page.