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Parental and professional perception of need for emergency admission to hospital: prospective questionnaire based study


AIM To compare views of parents, consultants, and general practitioners on severity of acute illness and need for admission, and to explore views on alternative services.

METHOD Prospective questionnaire based study of 887 consecutive emergency paediatric admissions over two separate three week periods in summer and winter of five Yorkshire hospitals, combined with a further questionnaire on a subsample.

OUTCOME MEASURES Parental scores of need for admission and parent and consultant illness severity scores out of 10. Consultant judgment of need for admission. Alternatives to admission considered by consultants and, for a subsample, by parents and family GP.

RESULTS Ninety nine per cent of parents thought admission was needed. Parents scored need for admission more highly than severity of illness with no association observed between severity and presenting problem or diagnosis. High parental need score was associated with a fit, past illness, and length of stay. Consultant illness severity scores were skewed to the lower range. Consultants considered admission necessary in 71%, especially for children aged over 1 year, presentation with breathing difficulty or fit, and after a longer stay. More admissions in the evening were considered unnecessary as were admissions after longer preadmission illness, gastroenteritis, or upper respiratory tract infection. Of a subsample of parents, 81% preferred admission during the acute stage of illness even if home nursing had been available. Similar responses were obtained from GPs. Alternative services could have avoided admission for 19% of children, saving 15.6% of bed days used.

CONCLUSIONS Medical professionals and parents differ in their views about admission for acute illnesses. More information is needed on children not admitted. Alternative services should take account of patterns of illness and should be acceptable to parents and professionals; cost savings may be marginal.

  • emergency admission
  • parental views
  • health economics

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