We need to reduce pressure on children’s services during winter

Hospital at home services are one way to keep acutely ill children out of hospital.

Hospital at home services are one way to keep acutely ill children out of hospital.

Picture: Photodisc

Amid the calls by opposition politicians for funds to bail out NHS trusts this winter, the NHS has been making plans to avert a crisis similar to the one it experienced last year.

Cast your mind back to what was, arguably, the NHS’s lowest point last winter: the Red Cross’s warning that the NHS was facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

That was in January, when senior doctors were saying the NHS was ‘broken’ due to long waiting times, and bed and staff shortages.

Nationally, the NHS focuses traditionally on the plight of older people at winter, with children often being perceived as a lesser priority.

But how will children’s services cope in the coming months?

The evidence suggests that children’s services, like other specialties, will be severely stretched.

The RCN has already warned that a lack of nurses in all areas, including an acute shortage of neonatal nurses, will affect services for patients and families.

There is also evidence that services have been busy over the summer, and that intensive care units and emergency departments (EDs) are under intense pressure.

The winter influx of people with respiratory illnesses, such as influenza and bronchiolitis, can only increase the pressure.

NHS Providers raised the alarm last month when it warned this winter could be worse than last year’s. The organisation blames insufficient progress on tackling bed occupancy rates and ED waiting times.

The warning signs are clear, but as Nick Evans writes in this month’s analysis, the NHS has been making plans.

He describes a ‘hospital at home’ service for acutely ill children in London which is treating them successfully and keeping them out of hospital.



This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.