Standards for Short-Stay Paediatric Assessment Units (SSPAUs)

SSPAU-cover-art-digital.jpgNew standards have been developed by the RCPCH for Short-Stay Paediatric Assessment Units across the UK.

Download the SSPAU standards (PDF, 930KB)

Definition of an SSPAU

A hospital-based facility in which infants, children and young people with acute illness, injury or other urgent referrals from clinicians can be assessed, investigated, observed and treated with an expectation of discharge in less than 24 hours.


SSPAUs have emerged as an increasingly common component of urgent and emergency care for children and as a hub for the provision and coordination of emergency ambulatory care.

As new units are established and as current units look to assess their quality and effectiveness, standards have been developed to provide a blueprint for development and for audit of existing services.

The standards were developed through a systematic review of current literature, a series of site visits to SSPAUs across the UK and an open consultation on a draft of the standards.

Case studies

The standards include two practice examples of SSPAUs, one co-located with the children’s emergency department (Royal Derby Hospital) and another co-located with the paediatric inpatient ward (West Suffolk Hospital).

The case studies demonstrate the variation across SSPAUs in how they are staffed, the hours they are open and how they fit with the wider hospital environment.

Despite this variation, units are well placed to deliver safe and high quality care within the urgent and emergency care system. SSPAUs can be used by infants, children and young people to manage a range of conditions and their use can lead to improved outcomes in the form of a reduction in numbers of inpatient admissions, a higher turnover of patients and a reduced overall length of stay.


For more information on the standards and to discuss their implementation, please contact