To capture the extent and impact of changes in the delivery of child health services in the UK, resulting from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic response, from the perspectives of a range of child healthcare providers.
National Health Service commissioned/delivered healthcare services in two regional settings in the UK: North of Scotland (NOS) and North East and North Cumbria (NENC) in England.
Purposive sample of 39 child healthcare professionals including paediatricians, community/specialist nurses, allied health professionals and mental health professionals, from across the two regions (22 in NOS, 17 in NENC).
Semistructured qualitative interviews conducted via telephone between June and October 2020, fully transcribed and analysed in NVivo V.11 using thematic analysis.
Extensive changes across a range of paediatric services were rapidly implemented to support the pandemic response and ongoing healthcare delivery. New ways of working emerged, principally to control the spread of the virus. Keeping users and their families out of hospital was an urgent driver for change. The changes had considerable impact on the health and well-being of staff with many experiencing radical changes to their working conditions and roles. However, there were some positive changes noted: some practitioners felt empowered and listened to by decision makers; some of the usual bureaucratic barriers to change were lifted; staff saw improved collaboration and joint working across the system; and some new ways of working were seen to be more efficient. Interviewees perceived the implications for children and their families to be profound, particularly with regard to self-care, relationships with practitioners and timely access to services.
Despite the challenges experienced by staff, the pandemic provided an opportunity for positive, lasting change. It is vital to capitalise on this opportunity to benefit patient outcomes and to ‘build back’ services in a more sustainable way.