Aim To determine the availability of PEC services in the UK by investigating the number of non-specialist paediatric cardiology hospitals employing PECs, the number of these holding local PEC clinics and specialist outreach clinics, and the average duration of clinic appointments therein.
Methods An internet-based questionnaire was distributed via PECSIG and NICHe (Neonatologists with Interest in Cardiology and Haemodynamics) databases. Non-responders were followed up by telephone.
Results The response rate was 80% (141/177 hospitals). Of these, 68% (96/141) had established PEC services with at least 1 PEC employed and 19% (27/177) employed two or more PECs per hospital.
Local, PEC-led outpatient clinics were held in all 96 hospitals where at least one PEC was employed. Overall, 47% (66/141) of hospitals held PEC-led clinics at least weekly, 11% (16/141) fortnightly and 10% (14/141) monthly or less frequently. However, 32% (45/141) held no PEC-led paediatric cardiology clinics. The mode time for new patient appointments at the PEC-led clinics was 30 min (range: 20–45 min) and the mode duration for follow-up appointments was 20 min (range 20–30 min).
Specialist outreach clinics, run with the support of a visiting Consultant paediatric cardiologist, were held in 87% (123/141) of hospitals. The majority of these clinics (72%, 88/123) were held monthly. 19 hospitals held no specialist outreach clinics and 11 of these hospitals did not hold any local PEC-led clinics either.
Conclusion There has been a substantial increase in PEC availability in non-specialist paediatric cardiology hospitals (68% as compared to 35% in 2008) but still almost one-third (32%) had no established PEC services. In most but not all hospitals, support was offered by tertiary-centres for paediatric cardiology via specialist out-reach clinics. There remain at least 11 hospitals that neither employ a PEC nor receive any specialist support via outreach clinics.
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