Inside the Royal Preston Children's Hospital: Parents urged not to keep sick children away amid coronavirus fears

Parents are being urged not to keep sick children away from hospital if they need urgent medical attention.

The warning comes amid a nationwide trend that "children and families are not accessing medical advice and review as soon as is needed" because of concerns that they might pick up coronavirus.

The Royal Preston Hospital says that in their children's clinic, patient numbers have fallen by around 60%, despite childhood illnesses still being a daily reality.

Credit: ITV News

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has put together a traffic light poster for people to use to decide on the best course of action for a sick child.

Credit: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Our team spent a number of days at the Royal Preston Hospital's Children's Unit to see how they've adapted to working during the coronavirus outbreak.

So what kind of new measures are being tried?

  • Zoned wards

Suspected Covid cases stay in Amber zones until their test comes back negative.

As with A&E departments, all incoming patients are screened to separate any possible cases of coronavirus.

They are kept to designated amber zones, where enhanced PPE is worn.

So far, no children have tested positive in the clinic.

  • Drive-through blood tests

Young people who have to visit for regular blood tests are being treated from their car. Credit: ITV News

To help children who are managing long-term conditions such as diabetes, drive through blood tests are being given outside the hospital.

Reese, who has diabetes, says the whole thing was over in minutes, without him even having to set foot inside the clinic.

The results are used to provide bespoke care plans, which a consultant will discuss with the family in an online consultation.

The results form part of an online consultation to manage chronic conditions. Credit: ITV News
  • Digital consultations

To avoid unnecessary trips to hospital and keep wards free for those that do need to attend, digital consultations are being offered so families can speak to their doctor from the comfort of their home.

  • NICU unit video diaries

Baby Afiyah being filmed so her parents and sisters back home can see what she's been up to. Credit: ITV News

Most of us start our lives with the NHS, but with social distancing in place, staff on the NICU ward are playing an even more intimate role in a newborn's first days.

With visiting restricted, nurses are making video diaries for parents and siblings who can't be with their baby.

The videos are uploaded to a secure app called V-create. One mother who had to isolate from her baby daughter for seven days says it gives the whole family a lifeline:

Khadija Munshi had to isolate from her baby daughter for seven days. Credit: ITV News
  • Socially distanced play

Children are given access to play equipment one at a time, cleaned between uses. Credit: ITV News

In the Green Zones, it's fear and anxiety that staff are fighting.

Play specialists take an important role in keep children calm.

Although playrooms have had to be closed, children are being provided with isolation kits of activities and toys they can play with safely.