COVID-19: online tool will track effects of pandemic on child health services

Weekly data from trusts will record service capacity, staffing, PPE, testing availability and child health outcomes to support planning and influence decision makers

Picture shows a woman holding a child while talking to a nurse. The effect of COVID-19 on child health services is being tracked, with details to be used to support planning and influence decision makers.
Picture: iStock

The effect of COVID-19 on child health services is being tracked amid growing concerns about children presenting late to healthcare services as parents are fearful of taking them outside the home due to the pandemic.

Trust or health board representatives such as paediatric clinical leads are being asked to give details in an online tool produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

The information, collected weekly, will include service capacity, staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE), testing availability and child health outcomes. The tool, which went live today (17 April), will also cover late presentations or non-accidental injuries of children.

Emergency department attendances have fallen amid the pandemic

The college wants to hear examples from participants of innovative practice in their services in response to the pandemic, or any concerns they would like to raise. Responses will be used to support service planning and influence government and decision makers.

NHS Digital figures show emergency department (ED) attendances have fallen amid the pandemic, and there have been reports of children becoming very unwell or dying because they were not seen early enough.

A total of 1.53 million ED attendances in England were recorded in March 2020, the lowest for any calendar month since records in the current format began in August 2010.

‘Hospitals and GP surgeries make sure patients are kept separate’

In addition, many children’s services have experienced short-staffing due to staff self-isolating or being redeployed to adult services.

Meanwhile, the RCN has called for parents to continue to seek medical advice if their children become unwell during the pandemic.

Commenting on the concerns, RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said: ‘It is vital that parents get the help their child needs as soon as possible.

‘We know that some parents are concerned about taking their child outside the home and putting them at risk of catching COVID-19, particularly if they have an underlying condition, but hospitals and GP surgeries are set up to make sure that patients are kept separate to prevent this happening.’

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Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – Impact of COVID-19 on child health services tool

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