RESEARCHERS have concluded England must follow Scotland’s example when it comes to preventative healthcare as "urgent action" is needed to tackle poor health in children.

The Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) has found that more than 83% of health visitors in Scotland say they can “provide continuity all or most of the time” – a stark contrast to 48% in England.

While speaking to the British Medical Journal, IHV chief executive Alison Morton said a “natural experiment” could be seen due to the different approaches taken by England and Scotland.

Additionally, a report published by IHV in December found that the number of young children visiting emergency departments in England is at a record high - rising 42% in the last 10 year. The increase has not been seen in Scotland.

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It comes after the Academy of Medical Sciences warned "urgent action is needed" in England to tackle poor health in children under five.

Morton said: “The investment in Scotland, where there is a more intensive programme of home visiting, is interesting, because when you look at various indicators - including immunisation rates, breastfeeding, and also emergency department visits -there are clear differences.”

The IHV chief also recommended actions England should take to meet basic requirements – including more health visitors to ensure children received five visits between their birth and starting school.

Since 2015, all families in Scotland should receive 11 home visits under the Universal Health Visiting Pathway.

Other areas of care that are diverging between the two nations are immunisation and breastfeeding.

The National: Health

Evelyn Tweed SNP MSP said the difference is due to Scottish Government policies ensuring “children have the best start to life”.

She said: “Immediately from birth parents are supported with the baby box, the best start grant and a programme of home visits from medical professionals.

“This research also clearly shows that the SNP’s decision to focus on preventative healthcare is benefitting our young people – with rates of immunisation and breastfeeding higher than that of England, and visits to A&E significantly lower.

“The SNP will continue to focus on how we can build on these figures and ensure that our young people have a secure and healthy start to their life.”