Lack of Out-of-Hours Care Forces Children into Emergency Rooms

EmergencyMore and more children under the age of 15 are admitted to hospital emergency rooms with conditions like coughs, diarrhea, rashes or breathing difficulties. In fact, 37.5% of emergency room visits of the age group in 2007/08 were related to mild illnesses. While concerned parents have always tried to receive fast medical care for their children, most of them would have turned to an out-of-hours GP in the past.

A study conducted at Nottingham Children’s Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre compared the records of almost 40,000 children each for years 1997/98 and 2007/08. The researchers found out that in the earlier time period, around 10,000 children were admitted to A&E with minor conditions, while in the later period, the number rose close to 15,000.

Since GPs went on new contracts in 2004, many of them were able to opt out of out-of-hours and weekend shifts – all this while, their salary rose by GB£ 30,000 on average. At the moment, it is up to the local health trusts to provide out-of-hours care; a task that they can only manage relying on private firms and substituting doctors.

“Parents have found in the last few years that accessing primary care is more difficult than previously”, John Heyworth, Consultant in Accident and Emergency Medicine, said.