Parents are being urged to take their children to hospital if they are ill during the Coronavirus.
A leading clinical director in paediatrics at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) says she is concerned that parents are wary of bringing children in.
Yet children will still get unwell, have accidents and need attention just as they always do.
Dr Katarina Berankova, Clinical Director and Consultant Paediatrician at NCIC, said: “We have been seeing fewer children being presented at our hospitals we think this could be because they are fearful of being exposed to the Coronavirus, or because they think services will be too busy.
“But health services are still open and if you’re worried about your child, you need to seek medical help. You can still call your GP surgery, check 111 online or if your child is very unwell, call 999 to arrange urgent review.”
Dr Berankova, who works at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, added that other factors could also be the cause of fewer children being presented to hospital: “We would typically see a reduction in acute admissions during Easter break anyway. It is very probable that this reduction is also due to recent school closures alongside warmer weather which in general help to reduce the spread of viral infections among children.
“These (mostly fever and upper or lower respiratory symptoms) are the most common reasons children are being referred to paediatric care.
“Even within current limitations in acute care, all possible channels for patients should be kept open for accessing healthcare for any patients who need urgent/acute assessment. If you are worried please ask for help.”
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said concerns were being raised about delayed presentation among children with non-Covid related illness.
President Professor Russell Viner said: “During the COVID-19 crisis, parents and carers up and down the country have been doing the right thing by keeping children with minor ailments at home and, on behalf of NHS staff, we really want to thank them for their help.
“We’ve recently heard reports of a small but worrying number of cases where children may have become very unwell or even died because they weren’t seen early enough.
“There could be a number of reasons for this and we’re trying to find out more but our message for parents is clear: if your child is very unwell, we want to see them – we don’t want parents to wait or to worry.
“If parents are concerned and can’t get through on the phone, we want them to contact their GP or, if very worried, to go to a local urgent care centre or to A&E. Hospitals have measures in place to help protect people from COVID-19.
“We’ve relayed our concerns to the health departments across all four nations and we’re working with them to ensure that sick children receive proper care when they need it.”