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Focusing on the young person at the centre of it all – UCLPartners Children and Young People event

17 November 2015 | Dr Amit Bali

“Hands up who works in…?” asked the first speaker of the day, the varied responses led me to discover that I was in the company of GPs, paediatricians, child mental health practitioners, researchers, commissioners and policymakers – to name just a few. For a paediatrician who has worked mainly in hospitals, this was an unusually diverse bunch.

I was at the UCLPartners AHSN event, Children and young people (CYP): Transforming research into practice for improved child health, and was due to present my own work, in which UCLPartners has been one of the core partners. The assortment of attendees was reflected in the main speakers and topics of the day. Most notably, a speaker candidly shared her experiences as a parent of a young person diagnosed with cancer, and their journey towards remission. This was a perspective, I thought to myself, that I don’t stop and listen to nearly enough.

This talk shaped my interpretation of those that followed: an explanation of an innovative new model for CYP mental health services; a robust analysis, and healthy debate, around standards for child health; and an insight into the public health approach that is now being championed across London. All the speakers were engaging and informative on topics that I find fascinating, but it was the idea of the young person, and family, at the centre of it that made it all the more important.

I had to leave the event after the last speaker – a sensible decision with three hospital night shifts about to begin – but I lamented the fact I would miss the networking opportunity that concluded the event. UCLPartners had showcased its work with children and young people, and it was a shame that I couldn’t stay to talk properly to some of those involved.

However, I hadn’t even reached the exit door before I was engaged in various conversations with attendees and speakers. The first was with a keynote speaker, offering words of encouragement and advice on the work I had presented. Next I spoke with a CCG manager from a borough where I’d not worked before who was keen to meet and discuss my group’s work. Lastly, I was approached by a commissioner and we spoke about how we could work together in future.

Whilst I had greatly enjoyed the afternoon up to that point, those conversations made me feel that I wasn’t a spectator at this forum, but an active participant. Innovative practice was shared, knowledge disseminated, constructive conversations were had and follow-up meetings arranged. So many events I attend – whether clinical or academic in nature – tend to have such a narrow focus. It often strikes me that there is a lot more to be gained from bringing together people who want to improve the health of children and young people, whatever their background.

Dr Amit Bali is a Clinical Leadership Fellow for Young Epilepsy and an Honorary Research Associate in Population, Policy and Practice at UCL Institute of Child Health. Amit was a Darzi Fellow, working with UCLPartners and Whittington NHS Trust on improving epilepsy care for children and young people with an integrated approach.