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.

Parents might be worried about coming into hospital, but if a child has something like Septicemia it's really critical that they get help quickly. We need to get the message out that we're ready, we're prepared, staff have the appropriate skills and training and we have an environment that's safe as well.

Jo Connolly, Divisional Nurse Director for Children, Young People and Neonates

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

Patients are worried about attending the hospital at this time. There was a period of time where we weren't getting these HbA1c results for diabetic children, and this was impacting on the care we were giving them. We're the second hospital in the country to set this up for children, its a really new initiative and it helps reassure them that we can manage their ongoing health needs at this time.

Nicola Entwistle, Paediatric nurse
  • 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.

I run clinics for children with muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, and you can still look at how they're walking, see them get up from a chair, and that can help us give advice to the family on how they can continue to look after them. I think there's benefits to this in the long term, because for families to have to come to hospital, travel here, having to bring siblings, try to find parking... it can be a very stressful experience and take a long time. Now they can just ring in through their computer and there is no associated stress.

Dr Christian De Goede, pediatric neurologist
  • 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

Words cannot describe how grateful I am to them. It's kind of like a tingly feeling - just waking up in the morning, and seeing something there ready, puts you in a good mood for the day. Afiyah's sisters haven't been able to come onto the unit, and its really allowed us to have that family experience of her being home at us as well. They're just jumping up and down when they see her photos and videos.

Khadija Munshi
  • 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.

We've had quite a few children who are very anxious and upset - it's about jumping in there as quickly as possible and making it a fun atmosphere for them.

Emily Hodgson, Play specialist