I’m a children’s doctor, and I work in Evelina London Children’s Hospital and in King’s College London University. I look after populations of children, and research how to improve health and healthcare for children. I teach students and other doctors, and do a lot of writing and talking about children’s health. I want the work I do to make a difference so do a lot to try to influence policy makers and policiticians. Accountability is really vital!
Who or what inspired you to take your job, and what do you think politicians should prioritise under the topic of children's health?
skillful_passionfruit, Graveney School
What an interesting question skillful_passionfruit. A lot of different things made me interested in children’s health. One of the main things is that I think it’s unfair that children don’t get as much attention as they deserve in the way government and the NHS work, so I wanted to try to help. Children’s health is of course important, and I wanted to spend my working life on something that matters. Besides, I think it’s really interesting, and I’m lucky that my work keeps me energised. I really like the people I get to work with in child health, and that’s another thing that inspired me. There are so many amazing people who are doing things to make children’s health and lives better, and I get to learn from watching them. That’s another really a great part of my job.
What do I think politicians should prioritise in children’s health? Politicians have such huge power to make children’s lives better, so I wish they would use their power more effectively. The first thing I think they should do is tackle child poverty. There’s really no good reason why so many children are poor. And the gap between rich and poor children is so wide, and that’s very unfair. Both poverty and inequalities make a huge difference to health, and so much that happens in a child’s life. So that’s the top priority. After that, schools should have a lot more attention and money. Education is a really important part of children’s health. I think teachers do a vital job, just as important as nurses and doctors. So, I think politicians should pay teachers and nurses more to make sure we have enough of them, and they are properly valued. In all these areas there are good examples our politicians could follow. Other countries have got a lot of these things right, and their children benefit – I think children in the UK should too.
What do I think politicians should prioritise in children’s health? Politicians have such huge power to make children’s lives better, so I wish they would use their power more effectively. The first thing I think they should do is tackle child poverty. There’s really no good reason why so many children are poorDr. Ingrid Wolfe
What is something you have always wanted in a children's hospital but MPs do not agree on?
generous_speech, Michael Faraday School
Thanks for that question generous_speech, it’s something I’ve thought a lot about actually. Children’s hospitals are really important, but they’re not the place where most children’s healthcare happens. Most children’s healthcare happens in GP practices, and outside of hospitals. So I’d like to see a lot more attention paid to improving that part of children’s healthcare. Now specifically relating to hospitals, to answer your question directly, I’d like hospitals to work on problems that affect children before they get to hospital! That’s a tricky area, but more hospitals (including my own, luckily) are doing more to think about the whole population and not just the patients who come through their doors. MPs do agree about some parts of this, but it’s usually about older people and the way that healthcare and social care work together (or don’t, which is usually the problem). But that’s not what matters most for children’s health. For children, what matters in healthcare is how well GPs and hospitals are coordinated, and how well schools and the NHS work together. And those things don’t usually capture politicians attention quite so much – but they should!
In your job do you always have to keep your promises?
impartial_shark, Boutcher C of E Primary School
Well impartial_shark, that’s such a good question. I think we should all do our best to keep our promises! I know that’s an easy answer, and I think you wanted me to focus on my job. OK. So, the short answer is that it depends on what you mean. Doctors have a responsibility to their patients. Which is I guess what you might mean about keeping promises. There are lots of ways that I try to make sure I always do my best, like making sure I keep up with my learning, keeping track of what I do and how well I do it. And then there are lots of ways the NHS and the hospital where I work keeps an eye on me too, and there’s the General Medical Council which checks all doctors and makes sure they’re keeping up to date.
There’s another way of thinking about keeping promises that matters a lot in my job. Part of my job is about speaking up about things that matter for children’s health. So I use my knowledge and experience to try to help politicians keep their promises. That’s hard sometimes, but a really important part of doctors’ jobs. How can we help politicians to keep their promises? Partly through information – showing them and everyone what’s going on in children’s health. That also means testing solutions to problems, and not just telling everyone about what’s wrong all the time. That part is harder, but I’m trying to do my bit there too. Part of my job is testing new types of healthcare for children, and I hope the evidence helps to improve things for children.
How can we help politicians to keep their promises? Partly through information – showing them and everyone what’s going on... that also means testing solutions to problems, and not just telling everyone about what’s wrong all the time.Dr Ingrid Wolfe
Do you think its fair that people only get to vote at 18?
flowing_situation, Birchwood C of E Primary School
No, I do not! I think children have a really important voice and need to have a say in how the future works out. After all it’s children who will live in the future world they’re shaping, long after the older people are gone. Also, I think adults often under-estimate how informed and thoughtful children are. Finally, I think it’s strange the way the law assumes there’s an immediate change from 17 years and 364 days old, to 18 years old. Sometimes people are much more mature before that, and sometimes they’re much less mature long after 18 too! I’m not sure how best to decide on when someone is mature enough to vote. But those sorts of things have been handled in the health service, for example, where there’s flexibility in the age when children can decide things for themselves. Also there’s been a suggestion that parents should have an extra vote which they can use specifically to focus on what their children need. What do you think about those ideas, flowing_situation?
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