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Study warns of bed crisis; HEALTH: Swine flu could create children's care shortage.

The UK could suffer a shortage of intensive care beds for children with swine flu, researchers said today.

More than half of admissions to paediatric intensive care units are unplanned and problems with breathing accounts for around one in four cases.

As winter unfolds, the double whammy of swine flu and normal respiratory infections could lead to a shortage of beds, the latest study suggests.

NHS figures show that children under 16 are the age group most likely to be admitted to hospital with swine flu.

An analysis of deaths in England shows that one in five are among under-14s.

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

Today's report used a model based on 30 per cent of the population suffering with swine flu and a paediatric intensive care bed figure of 303 across the UK.

It supposes a minimum stay of five days in intensive care and a pandemic lasting 12 weeks.

Latest figures from the Department of Health suggest only 12 per cent of the population may be affected by swine flu but this could rise to 30 per cent among children.

Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers from Cambridge University estimated that 3.8 per cent of the UK's under-15s admitted to hospital for swine flu would require intensive care.

They estimated that 1 per cent to 2 per cent of all people with swine flu would need hospital treatment, leading to between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of children's intensive beds being filled at the peak of the flu pandemic.

Given that intensive care beds for children were already occupied for an average of 76 per cent of the time, this could cause problems, they said.

Cancelling operations may not provide an answer given that half of admissions to intensive care are unplanned, they added.

"Such calculations strengthen concerns that provision may prove to be inadequate," they wrote.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 19, 2009
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