Sick children needing to visit Burton's Queen's Hospital could be back home in their beds recovering sooner thanks to a new assessment unit.
The Belvedere Road hospital is launching its paediatric assessment unit which will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from Monday, August 14. It will deal only with children in need of medical support so youngsters can be seen quicker and can return home if it is found they do not need to stay in hospital.
At the moment children are treated along with adult patients. The new unit will be dedicated to dealing only with youngsters.
This will mean a reduction in children being treated in the accident and emergency department as many brought into hospital will be taken straight to the unit where they can see specialists in one room. The aim will be to make the whole experience of visiting hospital less traumatic for children.
The idea is that the children will be assessed in the child-friendly unit and monitored before either being sent home or admitted to hospital. The unit has been trialled all through the year and has already proved a huge success. It has been found that 70 per cent of children taken to hospital do not need to be admitted.
The new unit will be contained within the current paediatric unit and will deal with youngsters admitted by GPs or those who visit the accident and emergency department.
Children will be assessed within 15 minutes of arriving and then coded either red, amber and green depending on the seriousness of the issue, with red being the most serious and green the least. They will then be seen by various consultants and specialists all within the same unit before it is decided whether it is safe for them to recover at home or that they need to be admitted. There will also be 'play workers' on the children's ward to keep children entertained.
GP admissions will come straight to the unit and A&E admissions will first be seen by a doctor and then referred to the unit, said a spokesman for the hospital. Bosses are also looking at a move that would see children referred straight to the unit by a specialist children's doctor.
Ellen Deane, senior sister on paediatrics, said: "Sick children tend to be anxious when they are seen by different people in different wards and we don't want children sitting around in waiting rooms. If they come to us they are going to be seen quicker and it is going to be more streamlined.
"This also means that parents do not have to keep repeating what is wrong with their child in an already stressful situation. They are in the right place with the right people and their children are played with to make it a nicer experience for them and distract them a little.
"Children with long-term conditions do tend to come straight to us as we do have open access and we know the children. We are always striving to make things better and we are already thinking about Christmas."
Paediatrician Anthony Choules added that although children will spend less time in hospital as a result of the unit, the amount of time depended on the initial problem.
He said: "It will be taking children away from the emergency department where they can be with us for a few hours but we need to make sure they are all right before sending them home. Many will not be staying overnight but we will assess them for a few hours and to see if they are clearly getting better or worse.
"We have previously found that do get quite a lot of overnight admissions and we are then sending them home in the morning. We are compressing that down into around three hours, where they are assessed and treated and if they are well enough, they can recover at home."
The new unit is costing the hospital very little to run due to a little reorganising. However, it does mean there will be four extra nurses and four care support workers to help cover the extra hours and they are due to start in September. There will also be more senior staff around with two senior sisters on duty at all times.
The unit has a woodland theme throughout to go with the new play area outside and to make it more welcoming to children.
Reaction to the new Paediatric Assessment Unit
The new paediatric assessment unit has already been praised by parents who have found themselves on the ward.
The trial was a big success with a survey being sent out to parents who gave back positive feedback. They have also taken to the Facebook forum for parents to praise the service and to pass on their own ideas to how they can improve the unit. The hospital also has a youth forum where they can share their thoughts on the ward.
Ellen Deane, senior sister on paediatrics, said: "It is amazing the reaction we have had to the unit. Our children are happy and our parents are happy. We are always striving to make things better and parents have given us loads of ideas which is important to improve the service."
Other ideas that parents have come up with to improve the service include making some food available such a cereals to adults who are there with their children. There would be a collection box for parents to contribute towards the cost if they wished so the service would be self-funding. It comes as many parents often leave their home in a rush and do not want to leave their child while in the hospital to go down to the canteen for something to eat.
The parents have also suggested putting together little packs with items such as toothbrushes and deodorant for them to use during an unexpected stay.