Short stay hospital admissions for an acutely unwell child: A qualitative study of outcomes that matter to parents and professionals



Malcolm C, King E, France E, Kyle RG, Kumar S, Dick S, Wilson P, Aucott L, Turner SW & Hoddinott P (2022) Short stay hospital admissions for an acutely unwell child: A qualitative study of outcomes that matter to parents and professionals. PLOS ONE, 17 (12), Art. No.: e0278777.

Background Numbers of urgent short stay admissions (SSAs) of children to UK hospitals are rising rapidly. This paper reports on experiences of SSAs from the perspective of parents accessing urgent care for their acutely unwell child and of health professionals referring, caring for, or admitting children. Methods A qualitative interview study was conducted by a multi-disciplinary team with patient and public involvement (PPI) to explore contextual factors relating to SSAs and better understand pre-hospital urgent care pathways. Purposive sampling of Health Board areas in Scotland, health professionals with experience of paediatric urgent care pathways and parents with experience of a SSA for their acutely unwell child was undertaken to ensure maximal variation in characteristics such as deprivation, urban-rural and hospital structure. Interviews took place between Dec 2019 and Mar 2021 and thematic framework analysis was applied. Results Twenty-one parents and forty-eight health professionals were interviewed. In the context of an urgent SSA, the themes were centred around shared outcomes of care that matter. The main outcome which was common to both parents and health professionals was the importance of preserving the child’s safety. Additional shared outcomes by parents and health professionals were a desire to reduce worries and uncertainty about the illness trajectory, and provide reassurance with sufficient time, space and personnel to undertake a period of skilled observation to assess and manage the acutely unwell child. Parents wanted easy access to urgent care and, preferably, with input from paediatric-trained staff. Healthcare professionals considered that it was important to reduce the number of children admitted to hospital where safe and appropriate to do so. Conclusions The shared outcomes of care between parents and health professionals emphasises the potential merit of adopting a partnership approach in identifying, developing and testing interventions to improve the acceptability, safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of urgent care pathways between home and hospital.


PLOS ONE: Volume 17, Issue 12

FundersChief Scientist Office
Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online16/12/2022
Date accepted by journal22/11/2022
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)

People (3)


Dr Emma France

Dr Emma France

Associate Professor, Health Sciences Stirling

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Chair in Primary Care, NMAHP

Dr Emma King

Dr Emma King

Research Fellow, NMAHP