Seriously ill baby forced to wait for 12 hours in A&E because no suitable bed was available in all of Britain
Staff rang 29 units but all 320 beds were already occupied by sick childrenA bed was eventually found nearly 100 miles away in Sheffield
Case emerged as specialists warned of shortage of beds for children
22:29 GMT, 15 December 2012
A seriously ill baby was forced to wait in an Accident and Emergency ward for more than 12 hours because there were no suitable beds available anywhere in the UK.
The shocking case emerged as specialists yesterday warned the Department of Health about a national shortage of intensive care beds for children this winter.
The Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) says all 29 units in Britain have been running close to capacity in recent weeks because of a surge in cases of a nasty respiratory virus and that there are several examples of children having to wait for appropriate care.
Shocking: A baby was forced to wait in A&E for 12 hours because there were no suitable beds (file picture)
In the latest case, the three-month-old infant had been taken to casualty in Birmingham with a serious chest condition. A medical team immediately stabilised the child’s breathing.
The child needed a bed on a paediatric intensive care (PICU) ward because of the severity of its condition, but despite staff ringing each of the 29 units, all of the 320 beds were already occupied by sick children.
A bed was eventually found nearly 100 miles away in Sheffield later that day. The baby has since made a recovery and has been discharged, but the incident highlights the huge pressure on the limited number of PICU beds at this time of year when there is a much higher rate of chest infections.
Children in need: The case has highlighted the pressure on the limited number of beds at this time of year
The case earlier this month emerged in an internet blog written by Mark Newbold, chief executive of Heart of England NHS Trust. Mr Newbold wrote: ‘An ITU [intensive treatment unit] bed is needed, but across the country there aren’t any. They had hoped for one in Cardiff, but just been told it had gone.’
This year there have been increasing numbers of occasions where there are no spare beds – a situation which could put young patients at serious risk.
Yesterday specialist bodies including PICS, the Intensive Care Society and the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists, put together a statement for the Government warning of the situation. It says ‘significant numbers of children . . . may need to have their intensive care delivered in district general hospitals or general intensive care units – even if some of these hospitals do not currently provide other paediatric services’.
It recommends a ‘rapid mobilisation of resources’, including making more staff available and freeing-up adult intensive care beds for children.
Paediatric intensive care specialist Dr Peter Wilson, honorary secretary of PICS, said: ‘There have been several cases of children waiting, although fortunately there have not been any critical incidents.’
The warning has been passed to Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS. He said: ‘In recent weeks demand has been high but well managed by paediatricians and intensive-care staff who worked hard to ensure all children received the care they needed.
‘Despite the high demand, last week 15 per cent of paediatric intensive care beds and nearly 30 per cent of neonatal intensive care beds were available and able to take patients.’