Why are so many children going to A+E?

16th May 2019

Our paediatric services are struggling on several fronts; not enough trainees, consultants leaving early and significant rota gaps which can result in a poorer service. At the same time we have more and more patients going to A+E. But why? What is changing and why are we seeing these increased pressures?

Last year there were 4.5 million children that attended A+E. Of these, 64%, ie two thirds, could have been managed in primary care or at home (these are figures from NHS England). The cost to the NHS could be in the region of £1 Billion. Every year there is an increase in the total number of children attending A+E and it not unusual to see a year on year increase of 10% each year. So what is happening? Why aren’t these patients going to their GP? Perhaps it’s even more important to understand why they are seeking help in the first place.

The family structure now is very different to the way it was 50 years ago. We have moved to a more nuclear family which has resulted in the loss of the support mechanisms that parents used to enjoy. This has happened in parallel with increased GP waiting times (the average is 10 days in the UK) and stories of patients having to queue for an appointment are common. It’s understandable therefore that parents who are concerned about their child elect to go straight to A+E. The system however cannot sustain this long term. We need to find a solution. Could technology provide the answer? I look forward to seeing your thoughts…


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Posted in: Health Politics by Dr Tim Ubhi

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