EACH – European Association for Children in Hospital – is an international umbrella organisation open to European non-governmental, non-profit associations involved in the welfare of children in hospital and other healthcare services. Associations or individual persons from other countries of the world are, however, also welcome to join EACH.
Publications by psychologists and paediatricians in the 1950s showed that the care children received in hospital was detrimental to their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Parents were alarmed by the emotional reactions of their hospitalized children due to the almost complete separation from their families. In particular the Platt Report “The welfare of children in hospital”, published in 1959 by the UK Ministry of Health, came to the conclusion that the conditions for children in hospital needed to be changed. James Robertson’s landmark films, ‘A Two Year Old Goes to Hospital’ and ‘Going to Hospital with Mother’ also had an impact. Beginning in the UK in 1961 with the founding of Mother Care for Children in Hospital, parents in various European countries started to set up voluntary associations for the welfare of children in hospital to advise and support parents and inform and co-operate with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
An exchange of knowledge and experience between the various national associations started from a very early stage. In 1988 twelve of the then existing associations met for their first international conference in the Netherlands (city of Leiden). While recognizing that the healthcare systems varied considerably in the different countries, it was the aim of this conference to establish standards applicable in all of Europe. For this purpose the participants of the Leiden Conference created a Charter stipulating in 10 points the rights of sick children and their families before, during and after a stay in hospital and in other healthcare services. A further incitement for the constitution of a common European charter was due to the 1986 Resolution by the European Parliament “On a European Charter for Children in Hospital”, which unfortunately never came into effect.
The Charter constituted at the same time a working programme for the national associations, because many of the requirements of the Charter were still far from implementation. The “spirit of Leiden” led to a continuing and powerful cooperation between the various national associations and finally in 1993 to the foundation of EACH. The original “Leiden Charter” thus became the “EACH Charter”. Since 1993 European conferences have taken place at regular intervals where the progress and difficulties experienced in implementing the Charter have been presented and discussed.
It was of great support that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in New York in 1989 and ratified in the following years, step by step, by all European countries. Many of the requirements of the EACH Charter are also mentioned in the CRC, and it was clearly defined that childhood lasts from 0 – 18 years (see also annex to the Annotations). As a follow-up a comprehensive General Comment on the right of each child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health was published by the UN In 2013.
It is hoped that the recognition of the rights of sick children with all its implications will eventually become a uniform European standard. As of today this is still a far away goal. Over the years the EACH Charter has become widely accepted. In several European countries the Charter has served as a basis for healthcare legislation and professional guidelines and has been used as a reference in many scientific studies and publications. Furthermore, the protection of the rights of the child has been included in the objectives of the EU Lisbon Treaty of 2007 and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Last but not least the Council of Europe in Strasbourg adopted in 2011 Guidelines on Child Friendly Healthcare, where the EACH Charter was listed as one of the documents of reference. The Guidelines on Child Friendly Healthcare were endorsed by the ministers of 47 European nations attending the 9th Council of Europe Conference of Health Ministers in September 2011 in Lisbon.