Worried parents 'put strain on A&E'

Rachel Burge
Boy listening to doctor's heartbeat with stethoscope
Boy listening to doctor's heartbeat with stethoscope

Parents who take their children to A&E with minor complaints are putting a strain on NHS resources, say leading doctors.

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Worried mums and dads are visiting emergency departments, which can lead to "undue distress" for families, because they are unsure how to get more appropriate care.

That's the finding of a report by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College General Practice (RCGP). Youngsters make up more than 25% of accident-and-emergency attendances in the UK, and experts are now calling for more doctors and better GP training in child health.

%VIRTUAL-AFCSponserAds%Dr Hilary Cass, president of RCPCH, said: "The vast majority of children's illnesses are minor and require little or no medical intervention.

"So a significant number of these attendances at the emergency department are unnecessary - and putting extra pressure on the system and causing undue distress and disruption for families.

"But of course every attendance means that a parent is worried about their child's health, and either unable or unsure about how to access a more appropriate service."

They suggest that children who are mild to moderately unwell could often be cared for better in communities, closer to home.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the charity the Patient's Association, told BBC News that there also needed to be improved access to GPs. "It can be frightening for children to end up in A&E. They might be better cared for in the community in many cases," she said.

"But very often parents take their children to A&E because they can't get access to their GPs.
They know they won't be turned away from A&E and won't need to wait days for an appointment. We need better access. And there needs to be more awareness raised of services such as minor injury units."

Prof Nigel Mathers, of the RCGP, added that it is vital parents with an ill child should be able to see a GP when they needed to. "But unfortunately what we are seeing is a severe shortage of GPs, and this is having a serious impact on the waiting times for a GP appointment," he said. "The RCGP is calling for 8,000 more GPs in England."

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