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How many children and young people with life-limiting conditions are clinically unstable? A national data linkage study


Objective To determine the clinical stage (stable, unstable, deteriorating or dying) for children and young people (CYP) aged 0–25 years in Scotland with life-limiting conditions (LLCs).

Design National cohort of CYP with LLCs using linked routinely collected healthcare data.

Setting Scotland.

Patients 20 436 CYP identified as having LLCs and resident in Scotland between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2014.

Main outcome Clinical stage based on emergency inpatient and intensive care unit admissions and date of death.

Results Over 2200 CYP with LLCs in Scotland were unstable, deteriorating or dying in each year. Compared with 1-year-olds to 5-year-olds, children under 1 year of age had the highest risk of instability (OR 6.4, 95% CI 5.7 to 7.1); all older age groups had lower risk. Girls were more likely to be unstable than boys (OR 1.15, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.24). CYP of South Asian (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.28 to 2.01), Black (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.04 to 2.41) and Other (OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.74) ethnicity were more likely to experience instability than White CYP. Deprivation was not a significant predictor of instability. Compared with congenital abnormalities, CYP with most other primary diagnoses had a higher risk of instability; only CYP with a primary perinatal diagnosis had significantly lower risk (OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.29).

Conclusions The large number of CYP with LLCs who are unstable, deteriorating or dying may benefit from input from specialist paediatric palliative care. The age group under 1 and CYP of South Asian, Black and Other ethnicities should be priority groups.

  • Palliative Care
  • PICANet
  • Routine data
  • End-of-life care
  • Life-limiting conditions

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