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Recent trends in hospital use by children in England


BACKGROUND Routine hospital statistics for England appear to overestimate use of children's wards and include numbers of well newborn babies staying with their mothers after delivery (“well babies”).

AIM To review trends in use of children's wards excluding data on newborn babies.

METHODS We reviewed routine, published, and age stratified data requested from the Department of Health to identify separately “well babies” and babies receiving neonatal specialist care from admissions (surgical and paediatric) to children's wards.

RESULTS Routine reports for paediatric activity contain large numbers of “well babies”, (almost half the total) as well as babies receiving specialist neonatal care. After excluding these, paediatric admissions represent 9.9% of the child population aged under 5 years each year (an additional 2.5% are admitted for surgical care). Between 1989 and 1997 paediatric admissions rose by 19% and surgical admissions fell by 25% with a plateau reached in overall child admissions. There are now fewer beds in which children stay for a shorter time and there is more day case surgery. Neonatal specialist care work has risen despite a fall in births.

CONCLUSION Categories should be established for reporting paediatric episodes on children's wards separately from those on neonatal units, with better identification of “well babies”. When monitoring use of children's inpatient facilities or planning new units, care must be taken to separate paediatric data on neonatal units from work on children's wards. Children's surgical episodes should also be taken into account.

  • admissions
  • utilisation
  • hospital use
  • hospital statistics

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