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Hospitals are failing children

28th February 2007

A review by the Healthcare Commission has uncovered serious concerns over children’s hospital services.

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The watchdog found almost one in five specialist centres in England are failing to provide 24-hour emergency life-support cover.

It also reports one in 10 surgeons failed to carry out enough operations to maintain their skills, while a sixth of children’s wards did not carry out enough work to reach the minimum recommended professional level.

The review comes three years after standards were introduced to improve care. The government said improvements had been made, while experts blamed lack of funding.

The findings add to the growing evidence in favour of reconfigurating services into fewer more specialist units.

Out of the 157 trusts that provide children’s services, three-quarters were classed as only fair or weak.

Other findings included a lack of training on child protection, communication, pain assessment and play. Almost two-thirds of children were treated in adult A&E departments, and half seen in adult outpatient areas.

But the report does find much to praise: almost three-quarters of dedicated paediatric inpatient units ranked as either good or excellent, while almost all children are now admitted to child-only wards. Most hospitals had made attempts to provide child-friendly environments including segregated areas and play areas, as well as adequate security.

Those ranked among 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 weakest included hospitals in Brighton, Co Durham and Scarborough.

Eight hospitals have been given until the end of March to improve their emergency cover arrangements or face further action. The commission has also pledged to pressure all hospitals that needed to improve.

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