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Swine flu could trigger shortage of children's intensive care beds


The number of children suffering from swine flu and other respiratory infections this winter might cause a shortage of NHS intensive care beds.

Researchers at Cambridge University, reporting in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, say half of admissions to paediatric intensive-care units are unplanned.

“Thus the scope for increasing capacity by cancelling elective procedures would appear to be limited,” they say.

Their report estimates that 3.8% of under-15s admitted to hospital for swine flu will require intensive care, while 1% to 2% of all people with swine flu would also need hospital treatment.

This might mean that between half and all of children’s intensive care beds are filled at the peak of the flu pandemic, “strengthening concerns that paediatric critical-care provision may prove to be inadequate”.

NHS figures show that under-16s is the age group most likely to be admitted with swine flu, and that one in five deaths in England are among under-14s.

The Department of Health has said that the number of intensive-care beds for children could double from 363 to 700 at the peak of a flu pandemic.


Readers' comments (2)

  • The beds might double, but not sure where they are going to get the nurses from. O, of course, HCA's will be looking after them....

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  • Anecdotally bronchiolitis is worse some years than others and I have had a large number of cases reported in community (we usually have a good year followed by a bad year) and this may have an impact on reported cases of swine flu, but I hope that children will be diagnosed correctly, but I am not holding my breath as I have heard of so many cases of misdiagnosed swine flu that turned out to be other things such as Strep throat. It would be nice to see the D o H produce some genuine research on the subject of the swine flu vaccine to reasure the general public and also we professionals, until they are pro-active in their approach instead of being re-active I for one will not be having the swine flu vaccine.

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