COVID-19 - message from the President, 3 April

Russell writes his weekly message to members on COVID-19 - the sad news that two young people in the UK have died from the disease, concerns about late presentations and updates on PPE and testing.

This week brought the very sad news that two young people died from COVID-19. This will of course be devastating for their families and has caused a lot of understandable worry among the public.

Earlier in the week a 19-year-old sadly died from COVID-19. Then, on Tuesday it was reported that Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from London, died at King’s College Hospital in the early hours of Monday morning. He was just 13 years old, and our hearts go out to all who knew and loved him, especially his family. This rare but tragic situation is one that no paediatrician – or indeed anyone – would ever want to see. I put out a statement about child deaths due to COVID-19 on Thursday.

I’ve also heard from many of you about late presentations and worries about the children we’re not seeing because of the current situation.

...children still get sick and we want to see them. We must reassure parents that we are here for them

I share this concern and have raised it with the Chief Medical Officer for England to ask for clearer messages to parents who are worried about unwell children. We’re also in touch with governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many parents want to do the right thing and stay at home unless absolutely necessary. But children still get sick and we want to see them. We must reassure parents that we are here for them and they shouldn’t wait to connect with a GP, through 111, or in serious cases at A&E. We are also acutely conscious that we don’t want people to show up with minor ailments – and we’re calling for policymakers to make that clearer in their public communications.

In paediatrics we need to make sure that as we rapidly gear up to meet the COVID-19 challenge that we make sure our services remain open and accessible to families and that we maintain strong rapid links with local primary care.

We are also very eager to ensure that our colleagues in primary care have immediate access to advice and guidance from paediatricians and specialists. We are already very good at working together so that children receive high quality, safe and effective care, and being visible to GPs and first responders will be particularly important at this time. It is also vital that we record incidents where we think a child has died due to delayed care – and if you’re in England please remember to do this through the National Child Mortality Database

This week we’ve seen some progress on the issue of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). New guidance was developed by Public Health England with Royal Colleges and was published on Thursday. We welcome the guidance, but we are still hearing of cases where the proper equipment is unavailable. We are especially eager to make sure that PPE is available in community settings. Thank you to everyone who sent case examples of PPE problems. They were collated, anonymised and sent to policymakers for action. Again, if there are issues where you are - please let us know by emailing my team at

The issue of testing has also, rightly, received a lot of attention this week. We want to see a lot more testing of frontline staff and a lot more quickly. We continue to make this case strongly and we are shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in other specialties.

I know this last week has been exceptionally tough and there are many more trials to come. We are working to keep you safe, informed and protected and we will be with you throughout the difficult days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, I hope you, your colleagues and your loved ones stay well and healthy. Thank you for everything you are doing.


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