Child in intensive care

A new national survey is seeking the views of parents on how the COVID-19 ‘stay home’ advice has influenced their decision making around the care of sick or injured children.

Led by researchers in the University’s Faculty of Health, the project will examine whether the advice has meant parents are reluctant to seek medical attention for their children, who may then be experiencing worse outcomes.

The research is a collaboration between UK universities, national meningitis and sepsis charities and health service organisations.

In the UK, the number of children being seen in primary care and emergency departments has dropped substantially since government advice to ‘stay home’ was introduced towards the end of March.

This has led to concern that some children are not getting treatment, or not getting it until late in the course of an illness or injury, resulting in some becoming more seriously ill.

The survey will gather data to test the assumption that this is because parents are worried about seeking help in the normal way. It will also ask about why that might be the case. The findings will provide evidence to underpin the development of information for parents to help them get medical care for their children when they need it, during the pandemic and afterwards.

Professor Sarah Neill, Rachel Carter and Professor Ray Jones from the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery are leading the research.

Professor Neill said:

“Like the majority of the child health community, we are worried by the fall in parents contacting GPs or emergency services about their children, and fear that some children may not be getting the help they need, and may be becoming much more ill than they need to be.

“To be able to put this right we need to know what parents are thinking and what they are doing instead. There may also be some really positive findings, showing how parents have coped without professional input, for us to share.”

Lecturer in Child Health Nursing Rachel Carter added:

“Unfortunately, we know there are illnesses affecting children where seeking medical help quickly greatly affects the outcomes. It is so important that we are able to identify how the lockdown is influencing decisions about using health services, and we would urge parents to complete this survey.”

The project is a collaboration between the University of Plymouth and University College London, University of Leicester, University of Northampton, South West Academic Health Science Network, Derriford Hospital, the ASK SNIFF team and parent panel, Mother’s Instinct support group, Meningitis Now, the Meningitis Research Foundation and the UK Sepsis Trust.

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