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Objective To identify potential opportunities for earlier intervention among children who develop a complicated respiratory tract infection (RTI). Design Qualitative, face-to-face, individual interview study, either in hospital or at home, with parents of children admitted to hospital with a complicated RTI. Setting Participants were recruited from a large UK teaching hospital, and described events (largely) prior to hospital admission. Participants Parents of 22 children (12 with empyema, 8 with pneumonia, 1 with peritonsillar abscess and 1 with mastoiditis). Results Parents' accounts revealed missed opportunities for timely treatment resulting from parental and health service associated factors. Themes relating to parental factors included problems assessing the severity of the illness (5 parents), beliefs about accessing health services (10 parents; including fear of appearing 'neurotic', belief that their concerns would not be taken seriously, and belief that their child would not be prescribed antibiotics or would be prescribed antibiotics too readily) and feeling powerless to challenge clinical authority (7 parents). Health service associated factors included perceived problems accessing healthcare services (13 parents; including inadequate primary care triage, barriers to accessing timely consultations and past experience of problems accessing healthcare leading to failure to consult) and perceived poor quality clinical encounters (11 parents; including inadequate assessment and communication). Conclusion Addressing, where appropriate, these parental (skills, fears and beliefs) and health service (access and consultation quality) associated factors may lead to more prompt care for seriously ill children.

Original publication




Journal article


Archives of Disease in Childhood

Publication Date





154 - 159