Hospital staff have been treating more children admitted as emergencies each year for a decade, a report has shown.
The biggest increases have been in emergency admissions of children and babies under the age of five, according to a study which has been published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The researchers claim many of the extra admissions are for common infections, signalling that not enough is being done to assess and treat poorly children in the community through GPs, walk in clinics and out-of-hours services as well as the nurse-staffed telephone helpline NHS Direct.
The report shows that emergency admissions for children under the age of 15 increased by 28% from 1999 to 2010 in England. In 1999 the rate of emergency admissions was 63 per 1,000 under-15s, while in 2010 this had risen to 81 per 1,000.
Over this period the number of babies under the age of one admitted to hospital as an emergency increased by 52% while emergency admissions for youngsters aged one to four rose by 25%. By 2010 almost seven out of 10 emergency admissions at English hospitals involved under-fives and the report claims rates for this age group has gone up by about 3% each year.
And if rates continue to increase by a similar amount, it is predicted that 731,000 children under the age of five will be admitted to hospital in an emergency situation in 2020 - 230,000 more than now.
The report’s authors say there have also been substantial increases in other age groups too.
However many emergency admissions were for a short period of time with the amount lasting less than a day more than doubling from 18 per 1,000 in 1999 to 37 per 1,000 in 2010. The authors attributed this to many of the admissions being unnecessary as they were due to common illnesses which could have been treated at home or by visiting a GP.