Shortage of intensive care beds for children with swine flu predicted

A surge in swine flu cases over the winter months could lead to a shortage of intensive care beds for children, University of Cambridge researchers have warned.

Critical care capacity for children varies considerably by region
Critical care capacity for children varies considerably by region

The research team used a model developed by the US Centres for Disease Control to predict likely demand for critical care for the UK's current provision of 303 intensive care beds for children.

They assumed an attack rate of 30%, in line with the DoH and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommendations; a minimum stay of five days in intensive care; and a pandemic lasting 12 weeks.

Their calculations showed that if the admission rate is 1%, around half of the UK's existing critical care capacity will be needed. If this rate reaches 2%, almost all the current capacity would be needed.

Furthermore, critical care capacity for children varies considerably by region, with areas such as Wales, the South East Coast, and the East of England likely to struggle to cope with increased demand, even at a 1% admission rate.

The researchers concluded: ‘It seems inevitable that paediatric intensive care units will experience significant additional pressure this winter from admissions due to the pandemic.'

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