Parents Should Be Closely Involved In Observing Sick Children's Conditions, NHS Urges Doctors

'Too often, parents worry about ‘potential time-wasting.'

13/07/2016 13:31

Doctors should listen closely to parents concerns when monitoring their sick child’s condition, new NHS recommendations have urged.

Children in hospital are known to suffer harm if deterioration in their condition is not picked up and treated quickly, according to NHS Improvement, an organisation responsible for monitoring NHS trusts.

In the worst cases this failure to spot deterioration can lead to severe harm or death.

NHS Improvement referenced external research that shows more than a quarter (26%) of preventable deaths in children or adults were because they weren’t properly monitored. 

“Too often, parents with unwell children aren’t encouraged enough by medical staff to raise concerns about their child’s care or wellbeing, and worry about ‘potential time-wasting’ with any repeated concerns,” Dr Mike Durkin, NHS national director for patient safety told The Huffington Post UK.

Picture taken by Sebastian Rose via Getty Images

Durkin continued: “Time and time again - and in some cases tragically too late - we see that some children could have received better care if healthcare providers worked with parents to understand and treat deterioration in health.”

NHS Improvement and the Royal Colleges have launched a ‘Safe System Framework’ - the first ever guidance to take a whole-system approach  to identifying deteriorating health in children, not just medical observations.

Durkin said there have been “far too many cases” of failure to treat sepsis (the body’s response to infection), and this highlights the “sad and frustrating instances” of parents repeatedly flagging concerns about their children.

“Sepsis is a leading cause of deterioration in children, but there are many other causes that can have equally tragic consequences if not paid attention to,” he added.

“That is why NHS Improvement is calling on providers, parents and staff to tackle deterioration by taking a whole system approach.

“This Framework not only looks at early warning scores or symptom monitoring, but engages parents and families from admission to discharge, spots signs of deterioration and acts quickly, and embeds patient safety, openness and learning into the culture and system of organisations.”

The Framework was designed with the National Patient Safety Team at NHS Improvement, bereaved or affected parents, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, doctors and nurses.

Key points addressed in the new Framework include:

* If the NHS is to reduce deterioration in children’s health, parents and healthcare providers need to work together as a team.

* Durkin has called on medical and nursing staff in the NHS to work more closely with parents in observing their child’s behaviour from admission to discharge, and he stressed that parents should be supported to speak up to nurses or doctors if they feel their child’s health is deteriorating.

Source: Safe System Framework

Louise Whittle, operations and fundraising manager at PASIC charity (Parents’ Association for Seriously Ill Children) welcomed the Framework.

“Parents need to trust their gut instinct when seeking medical help for their child,” she told HuffPost UK.

“They have ‘expert’ knowledge of what is ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ behaviour and it is vital that the clinical team respect and listen to them, treating this parental knowledge with the same importance as test results and opinions of doctors and nurses. 

“They deserve this right and need to be treated in such a way that they have the confidence to act in their child’s best interests.”

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