Seeking medical help too late during pandemic was contributory factor in the deaths of nine children, Royal College research finds.

Six children under the age of 15 are thought to have died from Covid-19 in Britain since the pandemic began Credit: AFP

More children died after failing to get timely medical treatment during lockdown than lost their lives because of coronavirus, new research by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggests.

Six children under the age of 16 have died from Covid-19 in Britain since the pandemic began, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, seeking medical help too late was a contributory factor in the deaths of nine children in paediatric care new analysis has found, with the figure likely to be higher.

A survey of 2,433 paediatricians, carried out by the RCPCH, found that one in three handling emergency admissions had dealt with children who turned up later than usual for diagnosis or treatment.

Experts said the Government’s "Stay Home, protect the NHS" message had made parents anxious about taking their children to hospital. Nine children died of cancer, sepsis (blood poisoning) and metabolic disease in the fortnight before the survey.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, a paediatric infectious disease consultant at St George’s Hospital, London, and the chairman of the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, RCPCH, said: "Nine cases is a lot. We have had fewer deaths in children from Covid than kids not accessing medical care, and that is a real concern.

"Parents were worried that their family would catch the virus and also thought everything was closed because of the Covid outbreak, and because they were told to stay at home and didn’t want to disturb the healthcare system. They were genuinely trying to be helpful, but the fact that one in three consultants saw a delayed presentation is an indication of how big the problem is.

"Deaths are the worst outcome you can have – but there are a lot of concerns, such as referrals for cancer investigations having gone down. How many more people have not come in? People need to realise they can, and should, access healthcare."

Figures showed that attendances at A&E units fell by 57 per cent between mid-April and mid-May, and charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Stroke Association warned that such extreme falls could cost lives.

On April 25, the NHS had to launch a major new drive to persuade the public to seek urgent care after research found that four in 10 people were too concerned about being a burden on the health service to go for help. The NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, warned that delays in getting treatment posed a long-term risk to people’s health.

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