Hospitals told to improve care for children

Hospitals have been told they need to improve care for children - particularly when it comes to life support training and levels of paediatric experience among staff.

Hospitals have been told they need to improve care for children - particularly when it comes to life support training and levels of paediatric experience among staff.

Child protection has also been raised as an issue at more than 40pc of hospitals, including the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Half of the 154 hospitals looked at, including the N&N, failed to meet standards in more than half of areas measured. It means the N&N has had to work with independent watchdog the Healthcare Commission to produce an action plan for improvement, which will be checked on by the primary care trust and Monitor, the body which oversees foundation trusts.

The review by the Healthcare Commission follows a report in 2005-6 which showed there were issues in many hospitals outside children's departments. Today's report, data for which was collected at the end of 2007, focuses on emergency care, day cases and outpatients.

Specialist child life support training is one of the biggest issues for hospitals nationally. The N&N, James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn all failed on some of these standards.

Another common failing is the level of experience staff, particularly anaesthetists, have in treating children. All three hospitals were judged as low performing because some anaesthetists had treated fewer than 21 children in a year. Surgeons' teams were not getting enough experience with children at the JPH and QEH, though the N&N did well on this. The N&N and JPH also did not have a children's nurse available in all outpatient clinics used by children.

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The JPH and QEH have also improved in many areas since the previous review, including child protection and pain relief.

N&N spokesman Andrew Stronach said the issues in the report do not reflect directly on the quality of care being offered to children. He said: 'The report does highlight important training issues, especially for staff who treat children outside the Jenny Lind Children's Department.'

He said they were going to increase training and recording systems and have established a Children's Board to ensure the changes needed are delivered. Where possible, outpatient clinics for children will be set up so a children's nurse can be on hand.

Fran O'Driscoll, JPH divisional manager for children's services, said: 'Since the review, which took place over a year ago, we have been implementing an ongoing action plan to improve. All clinical staff who work exclusively with children and A&E staff are fully trained in paediatric life support. We have reviewed our paediatric life support training and now have in place a training programme to include a wider group of staff.'

QEH spokesman Richard Humphries said: 'All staff in the hospital are encouraged to undertake life support training. We cannot teach everyone paediatric life support because it is a specialist skill, but the staff who need it are being trained in it. There are always staff with the training who can be called upon.'

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