15 JUNE 1962, Page 4

Children in Hospital

VER three years ago, in February, 1959, k../ the Platt Report on the care of children in hospital recognised (what to any parent is obvious) that a small sick child needs his mother, and recommended that where possible she should go into hospital with him and where this was impossible be allowed unrestricted access to him. This the Ministry of Health has, until now, backed and' recommended, but not imposed or ordered. In practice, the way children have been treated and the amount of contact with their parents they have been allowed have depended entirely on the individual hospital. James Robertson has now edited a book consisting of letters written to him by parents of children who have been in hospital under the very varied conditions that at present exist. Hospitals and Children (Gollancz, 18s.) describes places (un- happily still rare) where the mother is free to 'stay or visit twenty-four hours a day and is an integral part, as it were, of the child's treatment, and others where absurdly short visiting hours combine with unimaginative restrictious and a conviction that, as one matron put it recently, 'parents can do a lot of harm.' In all of them, good, bad and ,middling, the story is the same: where mother and child can keep together during illness, the child comes out of it not only happy at the time, but mentally sound in the future; and where the child is left on his own, among even the kindest of strangers, he suffers, not just at the time, but to an incalculable extent later on. The Ministry of Health seems at last to be taking action, and in its latest memoran- dum, published last week, it 'asks' hospital authorities to allow unrestricted visiting as recommended in the Platt Report. It remains to be seen whether this request is any more effective than its previous advice and exhorta- tions. With knowledge and a changing climate of opinion things have improved a great deal over the last three years, but until the Platt Report's recommendations are put into practice in every one of our hospitals, and abme all until its spirit is accepted, children will continue tc. suffer.