comment: National service framework for children is first part of essential work

Published: 17/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5851 Page 17

One of the starker lessons of the Climbié inquiry was the tragic consequences of treating children as a collection of unrelated symptoms rather than people with specific rights, needs and interests. It was a sadly predictable part of the Laming report, and therefore unsurprising to see it underpin the first instalment of the children's national service framework published last week (news focus, pages 12-13).

One of its key pledges is that no child will be discharged without a care plan. But this will be worth little if not implemented properly, and that will depend entirely on the ability of different agencies to work together - and out in the community rather than simply in inter-agency meetings. The priorities and planning framework, with its focus on health inequalities, makes explicit the central role of linking health and social care.

As Bob Hudson of the Nuffield Institute for Health points out this week (feature, pages 24-25) the exact structure of children's trusts has yet to see consensus. But it is clear that partnership working cannot be decreed from on high, or rushed.

For that reason, welcome though it is, this first part of the children's framework will be less crucial than the remainder, which is expected later in the year. The battle to protect our most precious resource will be won or lost outside the hospital.