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Foreword by Professor Al Aynsley-Green: National Clinical Director for Children

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Children and young people are important. They are the living message we send to a time we will not see; nothing matters more to families than the health, welfare and future success of their children. They deserve the best care because they are the life-blood of the nation and are vital for our future economic survival and prosperity.

Healthy mothers produce healthy babies who become healthy children and adults; much preventable adult ill health and disease has its roots during gestation, infancy and childhood. Children's vulnerability and the inability when young or disabled to articulate what they feel pose a challenge for all those involved in delivering health and social care services to meet their individual needs and those of their carers.

Improving the health and welfare of mothers and their children is the surest way to a healthier nation - the best way to achieve a fairer society for the future is to improve health and tackle inequalities in childhood.

There is now, for the first time for many years, an explicit commitment from Government to improve the lives and health of children and young people in England, one component of this being this NSF for children, young people and maternity services. The practical challenge is how to ensure that children's services locally are coherent in design and delivery, with good coordination, effective joint working between and across sectors and agencies, with smooth transitions and in partnership with children, young people and families. Nothing will change for the better without local understanding of, support for and ownership of the policy agenda, coupled with involvement, action and pressure for change.

Despite the difficulties exposed by the recent Kennedy and Laming inquiries into the standing and status of children's health and social care services, I have seen from my visits across England that there is much that is very good about the services provided by the NHS and local authorities to support parents, children, young people and their families. We have an outstanding workforce dedicated to children and young people. Nonetheless, effective change will only happen if staff at all levels seize the opportunities provided by the NSF.

Many people have been engaged in the development of the NSF. It is my great privilege to have chaired the Children's Taskforce and to lead the development of the standards. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all, including children, young people and families, who were involved, and particularly to colleagues who participated in the External Working Groups and underpinning activities.

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The Children's NSF is a ten-year strategy and change will not happen overnight. But we are heading in the right direction. There is a real will in Government to place children at the top of the agenda. The Children's NSF provides an outstanding opportunity to improve the lives and well-being of our most precious resource - our children and young people.

National Clinical Director for Children
Professor Al Aynsley-Green

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