The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has called for reform of NHS care for children in Britain in order to prevent 2,000 child deaths each year.

The Sunday Times reported that Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that children were “far more likely to die from diseases or infections such as asthma, pneumonia and meningitis than elsewhere in Western Europe.” Children are up to 27 times more likely to die from asthma, twice as likely to die from pneumonia and up to three times more likely to die from meningitis, according to its figures.

The Royal College will also publish a report this week calling for improved front line care for children in the NHS with all GPs receiving four months training in paediatrics. Currently some GPs receive only six weeks training with paediatric posts being included in fewer than half of GP training programmes. The Royal College will propose special child health centres staffed by paediatricians and trained and experienced GPs.

The report also called for improvements in the care for children in hospital A&E departments. Currently only 11% of hospitals have a consultant paediatrician available between 5 pm and 10 pm – the busiest time for admissions of children. Hilary Cass said: “For every child who dies, there are others whose illness isn’t managed very well. We do not have the most senior paediatricians on the front line… Children can get missed through A&E and they do not get referred to paediatricians.”

The Sunday Times’ report quoted the government minister responsible for child health, Dr Daniel Poulter, as saying that the government was committed to improving healthcare for the young.

Camilla Wonnacott, a solicitor/case manager from Penningtons’ specialist clinical negligence team, commented: “Diagnosing illness in children, particularly in very young children, can be particularly challenging, often because of the subtlety of symptoms. It is therefore even more important that primary care and emergency services are properly staffed and trained to be able to spot the warning signs. All too often we see doctors and other staffing missing golden opportunities to diagnose and treat illness, sometimes with the most tragic consequences.”