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BACKGROUND: In the aftermath of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, allocation of non-urgent medical interventions is a persistent ethical challenge as health systems currently face an unprecedented backlog of patients requiring treatment. Difficult decisions must be made that prioritise certain patients over others. Ethical resource allocation requires that the needs of all patients are considered properly, but at present there is no guidance that can help support such decision-making which explicitly considers the needs of children with chronic and complex conditions. METHODS: This paper reviews the NHS guidance for priorities and operational planning and examines how the needs of children with chronic illness are addressed in NHS objectives for restoring services and meeting elective care demands. RESULTS: The usual criteria for prioritisation featured in the NHS guidance fail to account for the distinct needs of children with chronic illnesses and fail to match more general considerations of what constitutes fair resource allocation decisions. To address this issue, two considerations, namely 'protecting age-related opportunity' and 'recognising complexity of care,' are proposed as additions to the existing approach. CONCLUSION: By providing a broader conception of needs, these criteria address inefficiencies of the current guidance and relevant ethical frameworks and help to embed a currently missing children-related ethical approach to healthcare policy making in general.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Res

Publication Date





Children, NHS, chronic illness, equality of opportunity, ethical framework, healthcare prioritisation, medical complexities, resource allocation