Watchdog claims kids let down by hospital careHealthcare Commission report is 'wake -up call'

28 February 2007

Children are being let down by the general care they receive in hospitals across England, a critical report by the health watchdog found today.

Nearly one in five hospitals are failing to provide sufficient life support care for children at night while child protection is still largely overlooked.

The Healthcare Commission said 75 per cent of the hospitals examined only scored fair or weak for the overall service provided for children. - a figure which prompted ‘serious concern’.

The study also found surgeons in 8 per cent of hospital trusts did not operate on enough children to keep their skill level up, while 16 per cent of paediatric inpatient units did not carry out enough work to reach the minimum recommended professional level.

Paediatric units

The Commission said its report was a ‘wake-up’ call for those hospital trusts that did not put the health of children first and pledged to put pressure on the worst hospitals to improve.

It said the report called into question the sustainability of some paediatric units.

The Commission praised the work of the majority of paediatric inpatient departments, with 70 per cent ranked either good or excellent, but said the overall service was less impressive.

It also looked at the outpatient wards, accident and emergency departments as well as day surgery cases in 157 hospital trusts.

The report found 1.8 million children attended mixed adult-child A&E departments, 2.5 million children went to mixed adult-child outpatients and 62,000 children were classed as day cases.

‘Wake-up call’

It highlighted the eight best and worst trusts as well as the eight hospitals which did not provide sufficient life support cover for children.

The best included Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust and Sheffield Children's NHS Trust.

The list of the weakest included Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare Trust.

Those with insufficient life support care included West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust - Mount Vernon Hospital, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS.

Fair and weak results

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: ‘We have found areas that are positive, the results from the paediatric inpatient wards are good.

‘But we are very concerned about the overall results - the 75 per cent fair and weak results.’

She said trusts such as Scarborough and North East Yorkshire had responded to the Commission's study and had taken the criticism on board.

Ms Walker said any concerned parent could visit the Commission's website to check the service offered in their area.

She added: ‘If we thought these hospitals were unsafe for children we would not hesitate to use our power to recommend to the Secretary of State that action be taken.’

NHS hospitals

Today's report was welcomed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which said it was ‘dismayed’ by the findings.

Dr Patricia Hamilton, president of the RCPCH, said: "It starkly demonstrates that NHS hospitals have made poor progress in meeting the needs of children and young people.’

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