A SOUTHAMPTON doctor says it is "unfair and unrealistic" to expect schoolchildren with chronic medical conditions to achieve a 100% attendance record.

Dr Mark Beattie, a consultant paediatric gastroenterologist at Southampton Children’s Hospital, said a campaign was needed to give those affected a “better deal”.

He spoke out after his team published a study which found more than a third of children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) were classified as persistently absent.

In the UK at least one person in 210 has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis - the two most common forms of IBD. The condition can cause a raft of symptoms including fatigue, abdominal pain and severe diarrhoea.

Almost 40% of children with IBD are classified as persistently absent after missing 10% or more of school or college.

Dr Beattie said the absence was often caused by illness or the need to attend hospital appointments, adding: "As a result of these factors, any expectation of perfect attendance is unfair and unrealistic.”

In the study 169 questionnaires were completed by children and young people aged five-17.

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They showed that 39.6% of children with IBD were persistently absent from school and only 3% had a 100% attendance record.

Dr Beattie said the onus was on healthcare and education authorities to work together to find solutions and prevent school absence having a negative impact on patients’ development.

“We know IBD affects attendance and that regular school attendance helps shape later life, so this is a problem that needs intervention,” he said.

“While our study focused on IBD, previous research into other chronic conditions such as cancer, asthma and heart disease have shown much lower attendance.

“We must campaign for a better deal for all children and young people suffering as a result.

"That could be via measures including appointments and treatments booked after school, clinicians educating teachers, and schools sending work home when absent.”