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Characteristics of frequent paediatric users of emergency departments in England: an observational study using routine national data


Background Frequent attendances of the same users in emergency departments (ED) can intensify workload pressures and are common among children, yet little is known about the characteristics of paediatric frequent users in EDs.

Aim To describe the volume of frequent paediatric attendance in England and the demographics of frequent paediatric ED users in English hospitals.

Method We analysed the Hospital Episode Statistics dataset for April 2014–March 2017. The study included 2 308 816 children under 16 years old who attended an ED at least once. Children who attended four times or more in 2015/2016 were classified as frequent users. The preceding and subsequent years were used to capture attendances bordering with the current year. We used a mixed effects logistic regression with a random intercept to predict the odds of being a frequent user in children from different sociodemographic groups.

Results One in 11 children (9.1%) who attended an ED attended four times or more in a year. Infants had a greater likelihood of being a frequent attender (OR 3.24, 95% CI 3.19 to 3.30 vs 5 to 9 years old). Children from more deprived areas had a greater likelihood of being a frequent attender (OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.54 to 1.59 vs least deprived). Boys had a slightly greater likelihood than girls (OR 1.05, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.06). Children of Asian and mixed ethnic groups were more likely to be frequent users than those from white ethnic groups, while children from black and 'other' had a lower likelihood (OR 1.03, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.05; OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.06; OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.86 to 0.90; OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.87 to 0.92, respectively).

Conclusion One in 11 children was a frequent attender. Interventions for reducing paediatric frequent attendance need to target infants and families living in deprived areas.

  • urgent care

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