Experts have published new standards for children’s emergency care to help ensure quality care and measurable targets that will include keeping GPs fully informed of any incidents.
The Standards for Children and Young People in Emergency Care Settings have been produced by the Intercollegiate Committee for Standards for Children and Young People in Emergency Care Settings led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and which includes the RCGP and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The series of standards set out minimum requirements for how children in emergency settings should be treated - covering areas from service design and environment to staff training and safeguarding.
They are designed to help service planners overcome some of the challenges in emergency healthcare such as the impact of the European Working Time Directive and increased public expectation of immediate access to care.
The standards appear in the third edition of a publication formerly known as the Red Book. The latest edition contains guidance as well as specific standards against which healthcare providers can be measured.
Some of the key standards include:
- initial clinical assessment should occur within 15 minutes of arrival
- at least one clinical cubicle or trolley space is designated for use by children for every 5,000 annual child attendances
- all emergency care attendances by children and young people are notified to the primary care team (GP and school nurse/health visitor)
- emergency departments seeing more than 16,000 children a year employ a consultant with sub-speciality training in paediatric emergency medicine
- all staff in emergency care settings are able to access child protection advice 24 hours a day from a paediatrician with child protection expertise
- all emergency departments receiving children have a lead registered children's nurse and sufficient registered children's nurses to provide one per shift
- emergency clinicians with responsibility for the care of children and young people receive training in how to assess and manage their mental health needs and support their family/carers.
Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “There have been significant changes to the how urgent healthcare is provided to children in the UK, with care provided in a range of settings - from minor injury units, walk-in centres and pharmacies as well as in hospital emergency departments.
“It's therefore important that to ensure consistency in the level of service, there are clear standards that providers must meet to ensure all children, wherever they are treated and whatever the emergency, receive the highest quality of care.
“This publication is key to setting - and raising - standards; providing practical guidelines and, for the first time, measurable targets.”
RCN chief executive and general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: “Nurses in emergency care settings are the first clinical point of contact for children and young people. They must have the right level of skills and knowledge to ensure that the child's care is passed on to the right clinician in a timely manner.
“We urge healthcare organisations across the UK and those planning services to play close attention to these standards as they face challenges including the impact of financial constraints.”