DOCTORS have praised the Scottish Government for doing “far better than Westminster” on child health policies such as breastfeeding and tackling childhood obesity, but warned that urgent action is still needed in areas such as GP training and reviewing child deaths.

A report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health scored Scotland, England and Wales on their performance against a series of key recommendations a year on from a landmark report by the professional body.

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The RCPCH said its scorecard rated the Scottish Government as "performing far better than the Westminster Government when it comes to its focus on child health".

It welcomed a pledge by the Scottish Government to expand the number of health visitors by an additional 500 by the end of 2018, the passing of child poverty legislation, and the launch of a consultation on obesity which includes proposals such as banning junk food deals. It also noted that the Scottish Government has committed to ensuring specialist breastfeeding advice and support is delivered to women; to reviewing school sex and relationship education; and to creating a system to review child deaths.

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Dr Steve Turner, RCPCH officer for Scotland, said: "The Scottish Government has led the way nationally by setting a minimum unit price on alcohol, it has committed to deliver a child and adolescent health and well-being action plan in 2018, an obesity strategy and has committed to adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach.

"All of these developments indicate how serious Scottish Government is taking child health and they will help Scotland become a healthier country for children."

However, Dr Turner stressed that the next step must be to ensure these commitments are "delivered effectively", and stressed that a system for monitoring child deaths in Scotland "requires urgent implementation"

He added: "Around 450 infants, children and young people die in Scotland each year and many of these deaths are preventable. This system will determine why some of these children are dying unnecessarily and will allow measures to be put in place in order to prevent future fatalities.”

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Dr Turner also said it was "disappointing" that there had be no progress on funding mandatory child health training for GPs or on linking every child with a long-term condition to a named doctor or health professional to improve continuity of care.

Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell said: “I welcome the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recognition on progress made and that Scotland is leading in UK on child health.

“Our concerted effort to give every child the best start in life has seen every child born in Scotland receive a baby box of essential items.

"We are also recruiting 500 more health visitors, and doubling childcare entitlement for three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds, thereby helping more parents, particularly mothers, into work.

“We’re committed to ensuring all healthcare professionals receive high quality training and education on the care of children.

"We will continue to work closely with College so we ensure Scotland is best place for a child to grow up.”