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Hospital admissions hike for acute throat infections

The number of children admitted to hospital in England for acute throat infections (ATI) increased by 76% between 1999 and 2010, according to new research published today in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Dr Elizabeth Koshy, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the study, pointed to problems with access to general practice as a key driver for the increase.

"It is very concerning that there has been a major increase in hospital admissions for children with acute throat infections, particularly among those aged under five," said Dr Koshy.

"We think this is likely to be due to problems at the primary care and secondary care interface. Our findings relating to short hospital stays suggest that many of the children admitted with acute throat infections could have been effectively managed in the community."

She said the study "highlights" the need to "urgently address" the issue of healthcare access, with improved models of integrated care within primary and secondary care, to avoid potentially unnecessary hospital admissions for relatively minor infections in the future.

This study investigated admission rates for children up to age 17 with ATI alongside trends in tonsillectomy rates, between 1999 and 2010. 

The research showed that the number of children admitted to hospital with ATI increased from 12,283 in 1999 to 22,071 in 2010 - a rise in admission rate of 76%.

Short hospital stays, lasting less than two days, increased by 115% over the decade, and accounted for the majority of admissions. Stays of two or more days in hospital for ATI decreased slightly, while quinsy rates remained stable. 

The authors suggest that the dramatic increase in ATI admissions is "probably explained" by a large number of children being admitted for ATIs who would have formerly been managed in the community.

Reasons for this may include changes in the provision of out-of-hours care in general practice and an increase in workload in Accident in Emergency departments.