Delayed access to care for children during COVID-19: our role as paediatricians - position statement

Evidence is emerging that children and families are not accessing medical advice and review as soon as is needed. In this position statement, published 3 April 2020, we outline our role as paediatricians to help ensure children get the right care at the right time and right place.


During the coronavirus crisis, parents and carers up and down the country have been doing the right thing by keeping children with minor ailments at home. Early reports show that self-isolation measures in place are making a difference to virus-related hospital admissions.

The NHS is under immense pressure, with around 15 times the amount of people trying to access NHS 111 for advice and guidance. Children with febrile symptoms, lethargy and vomiting may be mistaken as a COVID-19 patient.

While COVID-19 is infectious to children it is rarely serious and children do not always present with common symptoms. If a child is unwell, they are likely to be unwell for reasons not related to COVID-19.

The College understands the need for clear and concise messaging, and has been working to support Government, public health departments and agencies, NHS organisations and associated bodies on the COVID-19 response. However, evidence is emerging that children and families are not accessing medical advice and review as soon as is needed.

Our role as paediatricians

  • We want to make sure that children are getting a quick diagnosis as soon as possible (right care, right time and right place).
  • We want our patients to know that we are here for them. We must reassure each other that our job is to provide care to children and their families, and we will continue to do this throughout the pandemic. 
  • Paediatricians from acute general paediatric services will agree pathways for common acute conditions with colleagues in primary care during COVID-19.*  
  • Paediatricians from hospital and community settings are ready to work with primary care colleagues to ensure GPs have immediate telephone advice to a consultant paediatrician to determine an appropriate care pathway for children; and clear routes are available to access prompt paediatric subspecialty telephone advice and referrals.  
  • Children who need unscheduled care are provided with safety netting information, in a form that is accessible and so that they understand. 
  • When registering information to mortality databases, we will clearly state issues around delayed access to care to support surveillance and reporting.

We've developed guidance for how to contribute to surveillance and data collection studies during this period, including those monitoring delayed presentations of children and young people.

We have also put together a poster for parents and carers to help guide where to access help when their child is unwell or injured. 

  • *fever, bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, head injury, seizure and abdominal pain