Hospital wards that care for some of the sickest children in the country have an inadequate number of staff, a report has warned.

Two-thirds of paediatric intensive care units across Britain and Ireland do not have the recommended number of qualified nurses caring for ill children, according to the Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network.

Just 13 of the 34 units surveyed are meeting the recommended standards. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds and the University of Leicester, also found that the mortality rate for children suffering from asthma, who required help with their breathing when they were admitted to the units, is relatively high compared with other developed countries.

Forty per cent of children admitted to paediatric intensive care needed mechanical help with their breathing. The death rate among these children was 4.7 per cent compared with a rate below 2 per cent in Australia and the United States. PA