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Where have all the children gone? Decreases in paediatric emergency department attendances at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020
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  • Published on:
    Where have all the children gone? Home. Why?
    • John Furness, Paediatric Emergency Department Doctor Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

    Dear Editor

    Congratulations and thanks to Isba R et al on documenting the impact of Covid-19 on attendances to UK paediatric emergency departments and assessment units in lockdown [1]. Their data is mirrored by that collected by RCPCH [2] and Italy [3] They ask “Where have all the children gone?”
    As they point out the first concern was that children with serious illness were not being brought to hospital. RCPCH data suggests this is the minority of cases. [2] Other questions we should ask are, “Has the balance of benefit for families tipped in favour of staying away from hospital? Is there any evidence that supports that hypothesis?”
    RCPCH State of Child Health [4] documented a paediatric population with less acute illness but attending hospital more: the “Worried Well”. Furthermore whilst child physical health is improving mental and emotional wellbeing is deteriorating. [4]
    We must watch mortality and morbidity closely. To date there is no data to suggest this has increased in children. If it does not increase then we should ask ourselves the uncomfortable question, “Have we over diagnosed physical illness and contributed to anxiety?” Put another away, “Have UK paediatricians contributed to the anxiety of a population?”
    As we, “Reset, Restore and Recover,” [5] we must not shy away from considering this uncomfortable possibility as we address the secondary affects of the pandemic [6]. We must revaluate the relative risk of all childhood di...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.