Meningitis Now staff - Jane Blewitt

Missed opportunities for earlier treatment of illnesses including meningitis identified

Jane Blewitt | 1st August 2021

Recent research has identified missed opportunities for earlier treatment of children with a serious infectious illness

BeArH - missed opportunities for early treatment of meningitis

The Before Arrival at Hospital (BeArH) project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), explored factors affecting the timing of admission to hospital for children with a serious infectious illness (SII).

Infection is a major cause of childhood illness and death from 0 – 5 years. In the early stages of illness it is difficult to distinguish between children who will be become seriously ill and those who will have a relatively mild illness. It is important to understand what influences the decisions made by parents and professionals when a child is sick.

The research found that most parents interviewed sought help from a GP early in their child’s illness. Missed opportunities for earlier treatment were identified between these consultations and the development of severe illness. During this period of uncertainty, parents and professionals have difficulties in recognising signs of potential serious illness and parents worry about asking for help again.

It found that professionals were uncertain about how to avoid missing really sick children and some children with a SII continue to fall through the NHS safety-net.

Timely treatment

The study worked in collaboration with parents and charity partners, including Meningitis Now, to identify the factors that might be affecting timely treatment. 

Lucie Riches, former Senior Community Support Officer at Meningitis Now, was part of the project team.

“The BeArH project has given us an important opportunity to ensure that research projects take into account the voices of those affected by a serious illnesses such as meningitis. We understand, from working with families affected by meningitis, the life-changing impact the disease can have and the difference that timely treatment can sometimes make. We would like to thank all the families who responded to requests to take part in the project.”

This research has recently been published as a preprint and can be found here.

Following on from these findings, there are plans for more projects exploring how to improve parents’ experiences with health professionals and also improve parents’ and professionals’ ability to recognise important symptoms. Meningitis Now will continue to be involved with this work.