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Increasing admissions to paediatric intensive care units in England and Wales: more than just rising a birth rate


Objective To determine the number of individual children admitted to Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs) in England and Wales between 2004 and 2013 and to investigate potential factors for any change over time, including ethnicity.

Methods Anonymised demographic and epidemiological data were extracted from the Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network (PICANet) database and analysed for all children resident in England and Wales admitted to PICUs of National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in those countries between 2004 and 2013. Population data, including births, were obtained from the Office of National Statistics and analysed. Predicted numbers of children admitted to PICU were compared with actual admissions, averaged over 3-year periods.

Results Increasing numbers of individual children were admitted to PICUs in England and Wales between 2004 and 2013. The largest increases were among younger children (0–5 years) and those with primary respiratory or cardiac diagnoses. They were also greatest in regions with the most mothers born overseas. From 2009 onwards, more children were admitted to PICUs than predicted, separate from overall population growth, South Asian ethnicity or requirement for ventilation.

Conclusions An additional increase in the number of children from England and Wales admitted to PICU from 2009 onwards is not explained by a rising child population or an increased risk of admission among South Asian children. There was no evidence of a reduction in the admission criteria to PICUs. Given healthcare funding in England and Wales, continued increases would present a challenging prospect for both providers and commissioners of these services.

  • paediatric intensive care
  • population demographics
  • admission rates
  • co-morbidity
  • complexity

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