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New guidelines for care of children in emergency settings

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Minimum requirements for how children in emergency settings should be treated, including nurse staffing requirements, have been set out in new standards.

The standards appear in an updated edition of the “red book”, which has been renamed “Standards for children and young people in emergency care settings”.

They have been developed by a group of seven organisations including the Royal College of Nursing and a range of medical colleges. 

The standards stipulate that all emergency departments receiving children must have a lead registered children’s nurse and sufficient registered children’s nurses to provide one per shift.

An initial clinical assessment occurs within 15 minutes of arrival, they state, and at least one clinical cubicle or trolley space should be designated for use by children for every 5,000 annual child attendances.

In addition, emergency clinicians with responsibility for the care of children should receive training in how to assess and manage their mental health needs and support their family or carers.

The standards add that nurses and other emergency staff must be able to access child protection advice 24 hours a day from a paediatrician with child protection expertise.

Members of the relevant primary care team, including school nurses and health visitors, should also be notified of all emergency care attendances by children and young people.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “Nurses in emergency care settings are the first clinical point of contact for children and young people. They must have the right level of skills and knowledge to ensure that the child’s care is passed on to the right clinician in a timely manner.

“We urge healthcare organisations across the UK and those planning services to play close attention to these standards.”

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