Routine vaccinations for potentially deadly diseases like measles and mumps can not only save a child’s life, but can also prevent outbreaks of serious illness and reduce further pressures on the NHS.
Northamptonshire general practitioner Dr Emma Donnelly says parents should be reassured that their local GP practice is taking all the necessary steps to keep them safe from coronavirus – and they should always attend appointments when invited to do so, as long as they are free from coronavirus symptoms themselves.
“GP surgeries are still very much open for business and we encourage families to always seek help if they need it,” said Dr Donnelly, who is also GP Clinical Lead at Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
“It is very important children still attend for routine health checks and immunisations. We don’t yet have a vaccine for coronavirus but we do thankfully have vaccines to protect against other potentially deadly childhood illness such as measles.
“All practices are taking care to ensure maximum safety for patients visiting surgeries and for the staff working there. Wherever possible, any child health problems will be dealt with by phone or video consultation – but in cases where children do need to come to surgery, GP practices are organised to see them safely with social distancing and infection control measures in place.”
Most GP practices in Northamptonshire are timing routine health checks with immunisations to reduce the number of times a child will need to be brought in to be seen face-to-face.
For example, baby checks normally undertaken at six weeks are now being done at the same time as eight-week immunisations in a single visit, with vaccinations completed immediately after the health check to reduce the time spent in the building.
For safety reasons, GP practices will usually ask patients to ensure children are accompanied to appointments by just one other person.
Child health services in Northamptonshire
Local NHS services for children remain open in Northamptonshire, though routine appointments are often undertaken via phone or video consultation. Parents should contact their GP surgery, visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if they have urgent concerns for their child’s health.
The following local service information is provided by Northamptonshire’s three NHS trusts:
Kettering General Hospital
- New Paediatric Emergency Department (completely separate from main ED) set up in Foundation Wing – children can be accompanied by one parent or guardian
- Patients with or suspected of having COVID-19 treated separately from those without in main children’s inpatient ward (Skylark Ward) – children can have one parent or guardian visitor
- A number of child health services can be accessed directly by GPs so patients do not have to access emergency services
- Children awaiting outpatient appointments will have them rebooked (if cancelled) or replaced by telephone consultation
- Limited face-to-face appointments at outreach clinics observing social distancing and infection control
Northampton General Hospital
- Paediatric emergency department continues to be open – children can be accompanied by one parent or guardian
- Paediatric assessment unit is open for GP referral – children to be accompanied by one parent or guardian
- NGH’s three children’s wards are open to admissions – children may have one parent or guardian visitor
- Paediatric outpatient appointments are being provided in a variety of ways: some essential appointments are face-to-face, others are by telephone and/or video link
- Safeguarding services continue to be provided
- Children’s blood taking is currently offered at NGH’s children’s outpatients department on Monday and Thursday mornings between 9.30 and 11am
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
- Health Visitor helpline on bank holidays and weekends operating from 8.30am to 12.30pm, 07598 235094 (calls only, no text messages) – this can be used by anyone with a concern relating to a 0-5 year old child
- Infant Feeding Helpline available 9am to 3pm, 7 days per week on 07795 110109 (calls only, no text messages) – this is specifically to support parents with concerns with breastfeeding, bottle feeding difficulties, suspected tongue tie, poor growth and to access a breast pump
- ChatHealth – 11-19 year-olds (or the parents/carers of any schoolaged child) can text a school nurse for free, confidential health and advice: 07507 329600 (Mon-Fri 8am-4.30pm)
- Northamptonshire Health Visitors Facebook Page also shares lots of top tips and general advice for caring for young children.