Hundreds of children have been waiting more than a year to see a community paediatrician in east and north Hertfordshire.

Children are referred to community paediatrics if they are suspected of having conditions and disorders that include autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and epilepsy, as well as developmental disorders and neurodisability.

Last week, Hertfordshire county councillors were told that 970 children have been waiting more than 65 weeks in east and north Hertfordshire.

Of those, 497 children have been waiting more than 78 weeks - that's 18 months.


Members of Hertfordshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee were presented with the data on Wednesday (July 19), in response to a question from Jan Taylor, from watchdog Healthwatch Hertfordshire.

Matt Webb, from the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (HWEICB), told the committee that community paediatrics was "problematic".

He said a ‘recovery plan’ was being developed in east and north Herts, that was more comprehensive than reducing the backlog – making "a more lasting and sustainable change".

And, he said, it would include a single integrated model for ADHD and explore some out-sourcing of assessments.


"It is a problem for us," he said. "I think it is a problem nationally, with the increasing demand for these types of services.

"It is mainly being caused by insufficient staff and clinical capacity to meet the referral demand.

"The referrals have been steadily increasing over the last five years, but the clinical capacity to see those referrals has been static.

"I know east and north Herts has tried to recruit some additional community paediatricians on several occasions, but has had limited success. Hence why we are exploring the wider routes.

"So yes, I recognise it is a problem that we are absolutely focussed on, and we are working with the Trust on a recovery plan and regularly monitoring the situation."


Meanwhile, HWEICB director of strategy, Beverley Flowers, highlighted the change in focus of community paediatrics – with a rapid growth in young people being referred for autism spectrum disorder assessments.

Pointing to the length of time it takes to train to become a community paediatrician, she said the availability of staff did not reflect training now, but a lack of training from five or six years ago.

She said they were now looking at the wider use of practitioners, but stressed "there isn’t a quick fix and it is a national issue".

Officers from the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board were presenting to the Health Scrutiny Committee as part of the committee’s annual patient experience scrutiny.

The committee asked for more information to follow about how community paediatric waiting lists are being sustainably reduced, and what measures are in place to ensure they do not increase in future.


Following the meeting, Councillor Chris White – who had led the questioning of HWEICB officers –  said the number of children waiting was "shocking", and called for action to bring these numbers down.

"Sometimes in the NHS you wonder how it has got to this stage," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"This is too many children, and too long in a child’s life. There needs to be action to bring this down. It needs to be given priority."

A spokesperson for the HWEICB said: "We are working closely with all our providers of children’s services to support them in reducing these numbers.

"This is a priority for us, so that children in Hertfordshire and west Essex can get the treatment they need."

According to the HWEICB, 1,752 children have been waiting more than a year to see a community paediatrician in east and north Herts, and the total number of children on the waiting list is 4,493.