Looking after a developing child is never easy, and there are lots of medical check-ups needed, which is why private health care for children is in growing demand.
From the moment they’re born, children need specialist medical care, attention, regular check-ups and vaccinations against various diseases and conditions. And while almost all get initial health care from the hospitals where they were born and, later, at their GP’s clinic, not every child receives all the important check-ups they need to ensure they’re developing properly and getting all their shots.
One in four infants in the UK, for instance, does not get the mandatory check-ups they should from health visitors — or community nurses — by the time they’re aged two, a government commission found. The Social Mobility Commission discovered that parents in London were more likely to ensure their children got their necessary health check-ups and that there was “still too little support for parents in the earliest stage of their child’s life”.
With the pandemic continuing to strain health systems everywhere and routine check-ups and procedures postponed amid oscillating COVID-19 caseloads, it’s likely that many young and older children will not be regularly seen by their doctors and health visitors. This is why more people than ever are now turning to private health care for children and attending clinics like our Paediatric Unit at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital.
Checking up on children’s developmental milestones
Doctors and nurses need to keep checking that a baby is developing normally and that any problems that arise are immediately treated. They will examine and keep track of four critical areas:
- Gross motor skills: This involves using the large muscle groups to get about and do things. Infants will start to crawl, sit up, throw things and eventually learn to stand. Paediatricians at the NHS or a private hospital will want to see if newborns can flex their limbs and if there’s a degree of head lag when the baby is pulled up by its arms. By around the eighth month, an infant’s developing gross motor skills should mean they can sit up without having any support, and they should begin to crawl about by this stage. Between the tenth month and a year, the baby will usually be standing and walking around, albeit somewhat unsteadily. And if this isn’t happening by the 18-month mark, there may be an issue with muscle groups that doctors may want to investigate.
- Fine motor skills and eyesight: The small muscles in the hands and wrists give us the ability to pick up and manipulate objects, and these activities are referred to as fine motor skills. Doctors will see if babies can grasp toys and move them from hand to hand by around the sixth month. They will also look at a reflex called the palmar grasp, in which the fingers instinctively grip an object placed in the palm. The ability to pick something up with the thumb and index finger — the pincer grasp — should have developed by month 10. By the time an infant is 18 months old, they should be able to hold crayons and make rudimentary drawings with them, a skill that will continue developing up to the time a child is between two and five years. Doctors will also test the child’s vision and see if they can turn their head to follow an object held in front of their eyes.
- Hearing and speech: These are connected, and if there are problems with a child’s hearing, they may not develop their speech properly, if at all. An infant should make sounds consisting of a number of syllables by around seven months and start saying their first words — typically “mamma” and “dada” — by month 10. Some babies are born with hearing loss and don’t develop their speech, and the parents and their doctor will monitor this to see how they’re developing.
- Behaviour, emotions and social skills: These are other aspects of a child’s development that will be appraised in regular check-ups at clinics or hospitals with private health care for children and NHS clinics and hospitals. A newborn should be able to smile in response to someone or something by around six weeks, and by between six to eight months, they will usually begin putting pieces of food in their mouths. If their development is normal, a child can wave goodbye around the 12-month mark, although it may start a couple of months earlier, and they’ll be drinking from a cup and using spoons for eating by 12 and 18 months. Toilet training and being able to socially interact with others during play usually starts around two years if everything is proceeding as it should.
Private health care for children: vaccinations and immunisation
Babies and older children need several vaccines to protect them against diseases that once were deadly but now pose little or no risk at all, thanks to safe immunisation plans. All basic vaccines that children need are provided free of charge at NHS clinics, but some parents prefer to have them done at a private hospital for different reasons. It may be for comfort, quick appointment times or that some vaccines they want are not available on the NHS.
Babies in the UK should start having their jabs by the time they’re eight weeks old, starting with the six-in-one vaccine that protects against:
Booster shots of this vital vaccine are given at 12 and 16 weeks so that infants’ immune systems become robust enough to ward off any of these diseases and keep them healthy.
In addition to the six-in-one jab, infants are also given shots to protect against diarrhoea-causing rotavirus and type B meningococcal bacteria (MenB) — which can lead to meningitis — around the age of 8 weeks, with a follow-up jab of rotavirus vaccine at 12 weeks and MenB at 16 weeks. A pneumococcal (or pneumonia) vaccine is also usually given around the 12-week stage of a baby’s life.
By the time a child’s first birthday comes around, they will need an additional arsenal of shots to keep diseases away. They include the three-in-one MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella), the second dose of pneumococcal vaccine and a third MenB jab. It’s a lot to keep up with, but the medical staff at your NHS or private hospital will keep records and schedule your child’s appointments.
Some parents may want other vaccines for their children, but they may not be available on the NHS, such as chickenpox and others. And if parents are planning to take their children abroad, they might want to inoculate them against diseases like malaria, typhoid and rabies. These can be scheduled at a private hospital if they’re not available elsewhere. Finally, given the pandemic, children will at some stage start having the COVID-19 vaccination.
Are you interested in private health care for your children? If so, make an appointment at our world-class Paediatric Unit in London by calling +44 20 70783831 or filling out our online form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible with your appointment details.