1) Lees A, Tapson K, Patel S. A qualitative evaluation of parents’ experiences of health literacy information about common childhood conditions. Self Care 2018;9(1)1-15.
This article reports the findings from a qualitative service evaluation of health literacy resources for parents of children aged 0-4 on six common paediatric conditions (abdominal pain, asthma/wheeze, bronchiolitis, diarrhoea/vomiting, fever and head injury). These have been launched across Wessex as part of the Healthier Together (HT) project and consist of a website and paper-based resources designed to provide easily accessible facts about common childhood conditions, advice on actions to take in the event of certain symptoms and when and where to seek medical help. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted to investigate parents’ experiences of and reactions to the resources. We investigated perceived effects on parental understandings and feelings about childhood illness and help seeking behaviours. We discuss findings under four main headings: Parental interaction with HT resources, Parents’ anxieties concerning their children’s health, Positive evaluation and Areas for improvement. Parents positively evaluated the aims of the project and the information provided. A small number gave examples of resulting behaviour change and several anticipated future changes. Parents expressed anxiety about childhood illness and making treatment decisions. They required simple and easy to navigate resources including prominent risk assessment information. Communication by health professionals that reassures and empowers parents was also seen as important. Whilst this was a small study we believe that the findings are of relevance to others producing, disseminating and explaining health information aimed at parents and other patient groups.
2) Fake E, Lees A, Tapson K, Patel S. Parental views on the management of young children with respiratory tract infections in primary care – a pilot study. Self Care 2018;9(4)23-34
Local primary care data shows a 24% increase in the rate of acute presentations with common self-limiting infections for children aged 0-4 years between 2015/16 – 2016/17. As rates of serious illness have decreased, this means increasing numbers of presentations could be managed elsewhere. Although parents rarely expect antibiotics, they are often perceived to want them by clinicians; potentially resulting in more antibiotic prescriptions and driving future health-seeking behaviour.
To explore parent expectations, concerns and opinions about the primary care management of children presenting with respiratory tract infections (RTIs).
Semi-structured interviews with parents of children aged 0-4 years presenting to primary care clinicians with symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. Analysis involved thematic review
Parents used experience or ‘parental instinct’ when deciding to consult; this was due to seeing a similar illness before and receiving treatment, or alternatively having never seen this illness and being unsure of what to do. Parents saw the usefulness of written information describing actions to take and when to consult when their child was unwell. There was an about even split between those preferring paper and those preferring web-based resources. All parents sought input from a clinician for reassurance.
Better understanding of parent expectations when consulting clinicians with unwell children could facilitate a more effective consultation. Parents expect reassurance about their child’s illness, but inconsistent advice and management from healthcare professionals, such as prescribing antibiotics, act to increase parental anxiety and potentially drives future health-seeking behaviour. Changing the way clinicians communicate, including the use of consistent messages, may have a positive impact during current and future acute illnesses.
3) Donovan E, Wilcox CR, Patel S, Hay AD, Little P, Willcox ML. Digital interventions for parents of acutely ill children and their treatment-seeking behaviour: a systematic review. British Journal of General Practice 2020; 70 (692): e172-e178.
Background Consultations for self-limiting infections in children are increasing. It has been proposed that digital technology could be used to enable parents’ decision making in terms of self-care and treatment seeking.
Aim To evaluate the evidence that digital interventions facilitate parents deciding whether to self-care or seek treatment for acute illnesses in children.
Design and setting Systematic review of studies undertaken worldwide.
Method Searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE were made to identify studies (of any design) published between database inception and January 2019 that assessed digital interventions for parents of children (from any healthcare setting) with acute illnesses. The primary outcome of interest was whether the use of digital interventions reduced the use of urgent care services.
Results Three studies were included in the review. They assessed two apps and one website: Children’s On-Call — a US advice-only app; Should I See a Doctor? — a Dutch self-triage app for any acute illness; and Strategy for Off-Site Rapid Triage (SORT) for Kids — a US self-triage website for influenza-like illness. None of the studies involved parents during intervention development and it was shown that many parents did not find the two apps easy to use. The sensitivity of self-triage interventions was 84% for Should I See a Doctor? compared with nurse triage, and 93.3% for SORT for Kids compared with the need for emergency-department intervention; however, both had lower specificity (74% and 13%, respectively). None of the interventions demonstrated reduced use of urgent-care services.
Conclusion There is little evidence to support the use of digital interventions to help parent and/or carers looking after children with acute illness. Future research should involve parents during intervention development, and adequately powered trials are needed to assess the impact of such interventions on health services and the identification of children who are seriously ill.
4) Patel S, Hodgkinson T, Fowler R, Pryde K, Ward R. Integrating acute services for children and young people across primary and secondary care. British Journal of General Practice 2020; 70 (693): 158-159.
Children and young people under 18 years of age currently account for approximately 25% of attendances to primary and secondary care but only 12% of hospital admissions. The fact that children are the most likely age group to attend emergency departments unnecessarily suggests that high levels of parental anxiety is driving health seeking behaviour. This observation justifies initiatives to deliver integrated acute services for CYP which achieve consistency across primary and secondary care. Consistent management and safety-netting by healthcare professionals reduces parental anxiety, which in turn reduces urgent care presentations by empowering parents to confidently self-manage minor illnesses. Addressing this avoidable activity would relieve pressure on our currently overstretched urgent care services, improving access and quality of care to those who need it most.