Emergency Children’s surgery in South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield brought together at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in response to COVID-19 outbreak

surgery at sheffield children's
15 April 2020

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Emergency children’s surgery in South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield is being brought together at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, as all hospital trusts work together in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The move will impact children up to the age of 16 who would currently receive emergency surgery at Barnsley, Doncaster, Chesterfield and Rotherham hospitals. The exception is children who have very time-critical conditions, who will still be taken to their nearest hospital if it is safe to do so.

This does not alter Emergency Department arrangements. Please continue to take your child to the nearest Emergency Department if they need urgent treatment.

The Covid-19 outbreak has had significant impacts upon services across the world. Theatre space in many countries has been converted into additional critical care beds and anaesthetists are focusing on intubation, giving less space and time for surgical procedures.

In order to protect the quality of services for children within South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield, NHS England Bronze Command has directed the Trusts, as an emergency measure, to move emergency children’s surgery and some high dependency children’s care into Sheffield Children’s hospital for the duration of the pandemic. Like all other UK hospitals Sheffield Children’s has undertaken extensive preparation work for the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak. Sheffield Children’s is in a position to assist its neighbouring trusts, as the illness tends to be less severe in children.

Around 20 emergency surgery cases per week would need to transfer to Sheffield Children’s Hospital from across South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield. This could impact children needing emergency surgery for conditions like appendicitis, fractures, severe injuries and burns.

This plan has been developed with input and support from paediatricians, surgeons, managers, nurses from all Trusts, and NHS transport services.

Trusts already have arrangements with Sheffield Children’s Hospital to transfer patients who need more support than the district general hospitals can provide. During Covid-19 the trusts are likely to transfer more children, because pressures in the local hospitals will make it harder to support children who need support from a team of anaesthetists, or very close one-to-one nursing. The trusts will work with Embrace, the specialist children’s ambulance service run by Sheffield Children’s, to transfer these patients to the specialist facilities at Sheffield Children’s so that they can be given all the care they need at this time.

Trusts will continue to provide A&E, inpatient, community, and child protection services as required.

Professor Des Breen, Medical Director for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System said: “We are very lucky in South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield to have a specialist Children’s hospital on our doorstep and their offer of support for the other hospitals is a great way to ensure children continue to get the best possible healthcare during these unprecedented times.”

Ruth Brown, Deputy Chief Executive at Sheffield Children’s said: “It is so important that children can continue to get the urgent care they need. At Sheffield Children’s we have the clinical staff and facilities to make sure children can receive expert care, and the capacity to support these additional patients safely and without impacting the quality of care. By doing so, we can also support our much busier neighbouring hospitals.

“We understand that this means some patients will be further from home than usual, so we will be doing everything we can to make a home-from-home for children and their parents so they are comfortable during their stay with us.”

This move is not related to providing treatment for children who may have covid-19.  Whilst coronavirus is infectious to children it is rarely serious. If your child is unwell it is likely to be a non-coronavirus illness, rather than coronavirus itself.  Anyone who is worried about the health of their child must seek advice and remember that NHS 111, GPs and hospitals are still providing the same safe care that they have always done.

Please follow the guidance for when to see a GP, pharmacist or to A&E – do not let Covid-19 delay you taking poorly children to A&E if they need to go, and continue to go to your local A&E.

The decision on whether children will need to go to Sheffield Children’s for surgery will be made by clinical staff, either in the hospital after arrival, or by a paramedic if the child is being taken by ambulance. If the child is being taken by ambulance after a 999 call, they may be taken directly to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

These changes are expected to be in place for the duration of the Covid-19 response, and will be reviewed regularly by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (ICS).

Work is underway to ensure families who don’t have a car, or who are experiencing financial difficulties are not negatively impacted by this change.

An email address: helloworkingtogether@nhs.net is available for people to give their feedback on this temporary change. Any identified common themes from the feedback, which can be resolved with reasonable adjustments whilst not affecting patient safety and quality of care, will be explored.

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