Parents are being encouraged to seek help and advice straight away if their child is unwell or injured. While children can catch COVID-19, they may not have symptoms and the virus is rarely serious for younger patients. If a child is unwell, parents are being advised, this is likely to be unrelated. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has produced a ‘traffic light’ guide for different symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, drowsiness, or a high temperature, saying which health services parents should contact. If parents are unsure, they are advised to call NHS111. The NHS 111 online service can also be used for children over the age of five.
The national campaign, which launched on 24 April, calls on members of the public to contact their GP practice or NHS111 if they need medical help. It emphasises that people should go to hospital if they are told to do so and provides reassurance that the NHS will provide the care they need.
Mayor Andy Burnham said:
“We are seeing a drop in A&E attendances and emergency hospital admissions compared to what we would expect to see at this time of the year. Whilst we want everyone to use health services sensibly, this is causing concern that parents may not be seeking the help they need when children are unwell. I would like to reassure parents that NHS111, along with Greater Manchester’s GPs and hospitals, still provide the same safe care they always have.”
Sir Richard Leese, chair of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:
“The NHS in Greater Manchester is working hard to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, while at the same time ensuring that essential services such as A&E departments and paediatrics continue to operate. Our hospitals and GP practices have strict infection prevention and control measures in place, so they are safe for children if they need to be there to receive the care and treatment they need.”
Jane Valente, Medical Director at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH) said:
“We have seen a 50% reduction in the number of children and young people presenting to RMCH over the last few weeks. Children with serious conditions such as new onset diabetes or severe infections have presented extremely unwell due to mislabelling of the illness as COVID-19 or fear about attending hospital during the outbreak.
“If you are concerned that your child is unwell, please be assured that our Emergency Department is open, safe and we have designated areas for children who attend with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. All other conditions, illnesses or injuries will be treated in the Emergency Department as normal.
“Please do not hesitate to seek medical attention if you are concerned about your child. An early diagnosis and treatment in hospital can save lives”.
GP practices in Greater Manchester remain open but parents are asked to phone their practice in the first instance. They may be offered an online consultation or receive advice from a doctor or nurse over the phone. Suitable arrangements will be made if a child does need to be seen face to face. In some cases, this may not be at their usual practice location.
It is important that children still attend routine appointments, such as vaccinations, as normal if parents have been informed that it is going ahead.
The advice regarding coronavirus remains the same. Anyone who has symptoms of this illness (a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature) will need to self-isolate at home for 14 days along with other members of their household. They should not go to a GP practice, pharmacy or hospital. This is to help limit the spread of the virus.
It is still safe to go to hospital and there are strict infection prevention and control measures in place – such as clearly signposted areas for those with coronavirus symptoms, including a designated area in or just outside A&E departments and totally separate wards.