Admissions to hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments for children and young people are expected to hit 1.2m in August as Covid-19 restrictions lift in England.
Children’s charity Starlight has warned that families of sick children will “face difficult situations as restrictions remain for them”.
It says that despite all restrictions being removed in England today (19 July), it states that the pandemic has “added a wealth of new challenges” for children and families waiting for hospital treatment.
“The pandemic has added a wealth of new challenges to children and their families, adding to the isolation that being a seriously ill child brings including closed wards, limited visiting times and medical professionals wearing PPE,” the charity said.
Research carried out by Starlight, based on recent NHS data, finds that hospital admissions to A&E departments for children and young people increased by 53 per cent in June compared with the same month last year.
Last August figures stood at 1m, leading Starlight to estimate admissions are likely to reach 1.2m next month.
Cathy Gilman, chief executive of Starlight, said: “With easing of restrictions, the school holidays have been tipped as a summer of fun after an incredibly tough 18 months. However, for many children this won’t be possible as they stay in hospital for vital treatment or miss out due to emergency procedures.
“The surge in admissions means added delays, which means a greater need to ensure these children, many of whom may be experiencing hospital for the first time, are prioritised.”
Meanwhile, some schools have been forced to close early for summer as more than 800,000 pupils are self-isolating due to the virus.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the situation as “absolutely grim” as latest figures from the Department for Education show that last week 840,000 were out of school due to self-isolation.
“Schools are remaining open until the end of term where possible but we are hearing more reports of some having to close because of Covid-related cases and absence among pupils and staff,” he said.
The figures come as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is set to announce that some small groups of children will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine.
He told BBC Breakfast this included children who were almost 18, vulnerable to Covid or who lived with people who were clinically vulnerable.
But whether to jab healthy children aged 12-17 will be “kept under review”.
According to new guidelines released by the National Youth Agency, as restrictions lift, restrictions on numbers will no longer apply to the youth sector meaning youth groups for all ages may operate inside and out with no limits on size.