The hon. Lady makes a very good point. I hope that in our small way—as a result of this debate, the people watching it from outside the Chamber and the media coverage we secure—we will encourage people to take up that opportunity. That is a really good idea.
“I have been a consultant general paediatrician for the last 12 years. I see children referred into hospital from their GPs, and the emergency department.
From the view of a general paediatrician a child illness and resuscitation course for all parents makes practical sense for the families and NHS services.
Parents are expected to make important decisions about their children’s health and about seeking medical advice. But we know they find it difficult to work out if their child just has a minor viral illness, or something more serious. Unfortunately not all parents are educationally equipped to read instructions from their red book, NHS Choices or health advice apps like the ‘HandiApp’. For them, we know they really need time and practice in a supportive environment to learn these decision making skills. We repeatedly see this in the families we teach resuscitation to on the wards.
What is needed in my opinion, is a course for all parents and those in child care on how to manage the common emergency problems like choking, diarrhoea and vomiting, a seizure, recognising sepsis, managing a head injury, or in preventing accidents, drowning or cot death. These learnt skills could help keep children safe and healthy, so should be the skills highly valued by families. Vitally, early action may help prevent some medical emergencies deteriorating to life threatening illness.
This can only be good for the health of children, and for children’s acute NHS services.”
I completely agree.
In 2013, the Department for Education undertook a confidential inquiry into maternal and child health in England. It conducted a meticulous audit of deaths of babies and children, and reported identifiable failures in children’s direct care in just over a quarter of deaths, and potentially avoidable factors in a further 43% of deaths. The University of Northampton’s 2017 report “Before Arrival at Hospital: Factors affecting timing of admission to hospital for children with serious infectious illness” stated that parents often find it difficult to access relevant health information or to interpret symptoms, and that it can even be difficult for GPs to determine how serious a case is in the early stages.
I have been working with Cornwall Resus, which was established in 2012 by two paediatric nurses to give parents and carers the necessary skills to empower them to recognise when their baby or child is unwell and to respond appropriately. It runs courses for parents in community centres around Cornwall. Those courses last two to two and a half hours and include practical training on choking and resuscitation using lifelike dummies, with lots of time for questions and discussion at the end. I know that I would not be happy to undertake those actions unless I had practised them on a dummy first; having just looked at instructions or a diagram, I would still be very nervous about the amount of pressure to apply, so using dummies and having practical sessions and reassurance is really important.