50 years on, Platt's vision is everyday reality for sick children and their families

Hard to believe that on the verge of the enlightened 1960s sick children were still separated from their parents, just when they need that loving support most. RUTH DAVIES reflects on a landmark report.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Ministry of Health Report Welfare of children in hospital, more commonly referred to as the "Platt Report" after the Chair of its committee, Sir Harry Platt, who was also President of the Royal College of Surgeons.

At the time parents were effectively excluded from hospitals and only allowed to visit their sick child for a few hours a week. As an audit by the Central Health Services Council (1953) revealed, only 300 out of 1,300 hospitals allowed daily visiting by parents while 150 actually prohibited it.

No wonder the Platt Report created a furore in hospitals across Great Britain by advocating that "parents should be allowed to visit their sick child whenever they can and to help as much as possible in the care of their child"!

Resistance by doctors and nurses to open visiting was strong and their opposition led to campaigning, over many years, by the National Association by the Welfare of Children in Hospital to have the Platt Report's recommendations implemented.

Winning out in the end

Thankfully resistance eroded over time and by the late 1980s most hospitals allowed open visiting with the more enlightened ones encouraging more active participation by parents in their child's care. Without the Platt Report directing policy from the 1950s onwards it is highly unlikely that this would have occurred.

Children, parents and not least nurses themselves owe a great deal to the vision of Sir Harry Platt and his committee which led directly to a more humanitarian approach to the care of sick children in hospital.

Ruth Davies is Senior Lecturer Child Health at Swansea University.
Email: r.e.davies@swansea.ac.uk