A north-east surgeon has pleaded with parents to help the NHS conquer coronavirus by working to minimise accidents while the schools are closed.
The peak period for injuries such as fractures and sprains among children typically begins during the Easter holidays, as the weather improves and kids enjoy time off school.
However, this year it has the potential to come sooner, with all schools closed until further notice.
With staff to be moved from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s (ARI) paediatric department – and departments across the NHS – to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic as it approaches its peak in the UK, all routine surgery has been deferred.
Children’s orthopaedic surgeon at ARI, Dr Simon Barker said keeping an eye on children’s play during this time is a “win-win” for parents, with their children less likely to suffer injury in the first place, but also more likely to receive appropriate treatment in the event of injury.
And ultimately, he said fewer everyday injuries would mean less strain on the NHS during the unprecedented challenges the service is facing from the coronavirus pandemic, which is itself expected to peak in the coming weeks.
“There are lots of things we can’t do just now, but what we can do is keep a closer eye on our children,” said Dr Barker.
“What we’re asking is tricky. I am a parent myself and understand it’s not always easy.
“Running round is a part of life for kids, and the advice to get some exercise once a day is a good idea.
“But if we could just keep an extra eye on our kids and prevent them from undertaking more risky endeavours, such as trampolining, climbing on frames, or climbing high trees, it would make a difference.
“By being a little more vigilant, parents will help their kids on two levels.
“Firstly, they are less likely to suffer injury and secondly, if they are injured, they’ll be more likely to receive treatment if everybody is being that extra bit more careful.
“And it all has a knock-on effect for the situation with Covid-19, which we’re trying to suppress.”
Dr Barker added: “It is an evolving situation, but the capacity to deal with everyday injuries such as fractures is already compromised.
“Anything parents can do to help reduce the pressure on the NHS will go a long way to tackling the current crisis.
“I understand there are still going to be injuries. We’re not going to avoid that. But we’re heading into choppy waters and my fear is that we won’t be able to treat children as we normally would.
“We’re not at that point yet, and I don’t want to scare people, but everyone should know that they can do their bit to prevent things becoming unmanageable.”