Improving the Quality of Care for Children and Young People

When faced with an unwell child, parents often find the healthcare system (GPs, pharmacists, urgent care centers, walk in centers, minor injuries units, out-of-hours GP services and A&E departments) confusing to navigate. When they are unable to access local services in a timely fashion, they often end up seeking help from highly responsive services such as A&E departments and 999 ambulances. This in turn places increased strain on these already overstretched services.

Over the past few years, there has been a trend of increasing numbers of children being admitted to hospital, often with relatively mild conditions such as respiratory tract infections, fever and gastroenteritis, for durations of less than 24hrs. A number of these children could potentially be managed at home if more robust local services were available, which would in turn improve patient experience. In addition, by overwhelming the urgent care system with children who do not require medical intervention, there is a risk of exposing children who are seriously unwell to sub-optimal care.

This initiative aims to look at how acute care could be better delivered to serve the needs of children and young people in Wessex. We will initially focus on children under the age of 5yrs with common illnesses.

By working with key stakeholders from across Wessex, a number of core principles and potential areas for improvement have been identified by mapping the patient journey.

Core Principles

  1. Parents feel empowered about whether and when they need to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
  2. Parents are clearly signposted to appropriate healthcare services when required.
  3. At every point of contact, the healthcare practitioner (doctor, nurse, paramedic, pharmacist) should have a clear understanding of the limits of their own competence and when and where to seek guidance.
  4. Parents should receive consistent and appropriate advice across the whole urgent care system.
  5. Standardisation of local referral pathways and clinical guidelines across the whole acute care system, which are understood by all healthcare practitioners.
  6. Effective communication and information sharing between healthcare practitioners and services across the whole acute care system should be in place.

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