Government publishes review into improving babies’ and children’s development in England

on 25 March 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care has published a review into reducing inequalities in babies and children during the first 1001 days of their life.

The early years review ‘The best start in life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days’ was led by Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP and sets out a vision for best practice to ensure all babies and children in England receive the best start in life.

Maternity and child experts agree that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life is crucial to their future development and can have a significant impact on their health, wellbeing and opportunities.

In England, a study found that children living in households in the lowest socio-economic groups have significantly worse health outcomes than other children from other groups. Stress, smoking in pregnancy and communication problems due to language inequalities were identified as possible causes for children’s poor health outcomes.

As part of the review, the Government said children’s health record books, known as ‘the red book’, will become digitalised by April 2023 so that a child’s health information is more accessible to healthcare professionals. The book contains babies’ details about their growth and development.

Digitalising a child’s personal health record will make it easier to store, avoid getting lost and help medical professionals access the information they need more efficiently.

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 go build their health and we are determined to level up the opportunities for children, no matter their background or where they grow up.”

The review highlights six action areas to improving health outcomes for babies and children:

  • Seamless support for families: local authorities will be encouraged to promote Start for Life for parents in the area including booklets providing more information about the support available
  • The creation of welcoming family hubs
  • Providing the information families need when they need it
  • A Start for Life workforce to support families
  • The continuous improvement of the Start for Life offer
  • Leadership for change – local areas will be able to nominate a leader and ensure the delivery of Start for Life review is overseen at national level.