Children and young people admitted to NHS hospitals during the second wave of the COVID pandemic in England reported good experiences of care. In fact, care experiences were often markedly better than in comparable surveys conducted before the pandemic, especially in the view of parents and carers.
The survey, coordinated by Picker on behalf of the Care Quality Commission, was conducted in 125 NHS acute trusts. More than 27,000 responses were received from children and young people admitted between November 2020 and January 2021 and/or their parent(s) or carer(s). These admissions were during the second wave of England’s COVID pandemic: this was a period of significant pressure for the NHS, with high levels of bed occupancy related to COVID meaning that many staff were redeployed outside of their normal roles. However, the volume of admissions for children and young people were much lower than normal: compared to the prior year, monthly admissions during the survey sampling period were down between 27% and 36%. Emergency admissions, in particular, were almost halved – 47% lower than the same period during the previous year .
Children, young people, and their parent(s) or carer(s) reported positive experiences in a number of areas of care:
There were some areas where results declined, and these tended to be related to COVID restrictions. For example, parents or carers were far less likely to be able to prepare hot food for themselves or their children in hospital – the proportion who said that they could not do this rose from 36% in 2018 to 61% in 2020, a 25% point increase. This was likely down to changes intended to promote infection control in hospitals. Similarly, there was a threefold increase in the proportion of parents or carers of 0-7 year olds who said that there was not enough for their child to do in hospital – up from 7% in 2018 to 22% in 2020. There was a similar but much smaller increase in the proportion of 8-15 year olds who said that they did not have enough to do in hospital, which rose from 17% to 21% – mitigated, it would seem, by improvements in the standard of Wi-Fi in hospitals.
Commenting on the results, Chris Graham, CEO at Picker, said:
“Children and young people admitted to hospital during the second wave of the pandemic – and their parents or carers – may well have expected to encounter disruption. Instead, their feedback shows that a larger proportion of children and young people experienced high quality, person centred care – including clear communication and effective treatment from trusted professionals. This is something to be celebrated and NHS providers and staff working in children’s services should be proud of the standard of the care that they have been able to deliver in testing circumstances.
“The fuller context of the results and improvements will need some consideration, and it will be interesting to see if progress can be maintained. Providers may have benefited from reduced demand as far fewer children were admitted to hospital, especially in emergencies, during the second wave of the pandemic than would usually be expected. Equally it is undoubtedly the case that providers will have been forced to make changes to usual patterns of care, and in most areas these appear to have been successful. We call on all providers to review their results in light of their approach to care over the winter of 2020/21, reflecting on what changes benefited or undermined the experiences of young people and their families. In this way, the lessons of the pandemic can be used to maintain improvements in the quality of care into the future.”
 Source: NHS Digital https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/hospital-episode-statistics-for-admitted-patient-care-outpatient-and-accident-and-emergency-data/april-2021—june-2021.
View the summary infographic and children’s infographic.
items marked with * are required