Independent review: Disagreements in the care of critically ill children


Published 18/09/2023

An independent review of disagreements in the care of critically ill children.

Infant foot with IV line

In December 2022, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care commissioned us to undertake an independent review of disagreements that arise in the care of critically ill children in England, following a Government commitment in the Health and Care Act 2022.

The care and treatment of children who are critically ill often involves complexity and uncertainty, and disagreements can arise between parents and healthcare staff about the best course of action. Sometimes these disagreements become entrenched, and are taken to the courts for a decision. Legal action can be a long process, and one that protracts disagreements further. High-profile court cases in the UK have highlighted the distress and heartbreak that these kinds of disagreements cause for everyone involved.

The focus of the review has been on the relationship between parents/carers and healthcare teams in the care of a critically ill child and why, in some cases, the relationship breaks down. The review also looks at how disagreements, once they have come to light, can be resolved as collaboratively and sensitively as possible with all involved able to have their voices heard.

On Monday 18 September 2023, this review was laid before Parliament. It contains 16 recommendations across a number of areas, to a range of groups and organisations. We are encouraging the Government to act on these recommendations which, if taken together, we believe will help improve the experience families and healthcare professionals have of navigating disagreements.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to this review and helped to inform this work.