Almost a quarter of NHS children’s units should close to concentrate expertise in the remainder, the Royal College of Paediatrics says.
Consultants are spread too thinly among the 218 existing units whose numbers should be cut to 170, the college insists. Its survey has revealed that only one in 10 children’s units had a consultant on duty between 5pm and 10pm on weekdays, even though that is a peak time for urgent care for children.
At weekends, coverage was little better with just six per cent of hospitals having a consultant on duty during the same peak period. Dr Hilary Cass, president of the college, said: “There are too many units in the UK to provide a safe and sustainable service; health services can’t continue in their current form. Reconfiguration needs to happen to deliver the best possible care to children and young people.”
Closures were likely to trigger public protests but Dr Cass said doctors needed to convince parents that it was in their children’s interests. “Paediatricians are under significant pressure within the current structures and we have to be prepared to re-examine the way in which we deliver care, because this way of working is not sustainable.”
The report added: “In many other industries, it would be an anomaly that the most senior, experienced and skilled professionals were absent during the busiest periods. Regrettably, this appears to be common practice in paediatrics.”