EHS-COVID (424) Child health (15) Inappropriate use of accident and emergency departments

25 June, 2021

It's interesting to see the contrasts between countries. Martin Yakum, HIFA country representative for Cameroon, reported earlier today on lack of trust in allopathic medicine leading to increased use of traditional medicine; denial of COVID-19; belief in health facilities 'killing' patients; stigma agains COVID-19 patients; vaccine hesitancy; mistrust of mask wearing; failure to have routine child immunisations; avoidance of care-seeking for child illness; arrival of critically ill children because of delays in seeking care. (All related to lack of availability and use of reliable healthcare information and false belief in misinformation.)

Meanwhile the BBC reports that Accident and Emergency departments in the UK are 'seeing record numbers of young children - but most have a mild fever that could be treated at home'.

Extracts from BBC news item below. Full text:


A&Es 'overwhelmed' by children with mild winter viruses, doctors warn

Emergency departments across the UK are seeing record numbers of young children - but most have a mild fever that could be treated at home, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says.

Winter viruses are flourishing as more people mix, and a doctor's chief says many A&Es are being "overwhelmed"...

It found children coming to A&E are mostly under the age of five - but they do not have coronavirus.

In most cases, their fevers, coughs and runny noses are caused by other respiratory infections such as RSV, bronchiolitis, the common cold and paraflu.

After disappearing last winter during lockdown when no-one was mixing in large numbers, these viruses have reappeared in the summer - but at winter levels, putting huge pressure on emergency departments in hospitals...

Dr Damian Roland, a paediatrician who works in Leicester, said he had recently seen nearly 300 patients in one day in his emergency department...


Comment: The reason for inappropriate use is unclear. One element may be heightened health anxiety among parents as a result of the pandemic? Another factor may be that parents do not feel confident or adequately informed about what to do.

Inappropriate use of hospital services for mild illness is clearly a huge problem. Indeed, large numbers of both children and adults inappropriately use emergency services every day in the UK, including dialling the emergency number 999 for trivial situations. To what extent are accident and emergency hospitals used inappropriately in other countries? And have there been any changes in use as a result of COVID-19? We look forward to hear from you.

Best wishes, Neil

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,