In May 2006, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced details of an independent review of palliative care services for children and young people with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses and their families. This review offers an important opportunity to look at current provision and consider what more can be done to improve the sustainability and accessibility of services in both the statutory and voluntary sectors.
I welcome the thorough review that has been conducted by Professor Sir Alan Craft and Sue Killen and thank them for their efforts. Their report comes at an important point in the evolution of children’s services and it is critical that children and their families have confidence in the valuable support that palliative care services currently provide.
I also recognise and pay tribute to the pioneering work carried out over the years by the voluntary sector and by hugely committed doctors, nurses and other care workers that has got us to this point. Together they have raised the profile of children’s palliative care and this has resulted in a model of care which enables the children and families who use those services to live in dignity and comfort.
The independent reviewers have made various recommendations to improve and develop palliative care services and the commissioning and planning systems in which they operate. In the longer-term, they recommend that palliative care should become a sub-specialty in its own right and be a properly funded service.
Some of the recommendations are contingent on the comprehensive spending review, the results of which will not be known for some months, while others are for consideration by the voluntary sector, the royal colleges, regulators and other Government Departments such as the Department for Education and Skills. We are committed to working with these key partners to achieve real and lasting change.
The Government will consider carefully the recommendations and their implications for life-limited children and young people and for the health and social care system across the country. A detailed Government response will be formed alongside plans to take forward any recommendations coming out of HM Treasury and the Department for Education and Skills review of disabled children.
In the meantime, I am setting up a delivery group of key stakeholders to co-ordinate delivery on those recommendations that can be taken forward immediately, including the development of a national strategy for children’s palliative care. I very much hope those invited will accept the offer to work with the Government to help achieve the step-change we all desire.
The report has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.