Saving children's lives – outcomes in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU)

Severe illness in a child is a parent’s worst fear – as many of us know from our own experience - but having access to the best possible care provides reassurance, whether from a GP or more specialised medical team.

For the most severe illness or accident, treatment in Southampton’s PICU may be required. This is one of a small number of children’s intensive care centres around the country and we provide care for children locally and across the southern region including Oxford, Bucks, Dorset, Wiltshire, and across to Sussex and Surrey, plus the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and sometimes further afield.

We have 13 beds on the unit and a wide range of specialist staff including doctors, nurses, therapists, scientific and technical staff.

Just as we do for our adult intensive care beds we want to know whether or not we are providing a high standard of care. One way we do this is by sending information to the Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network – PICANet.

Every other PICU in England, Wales and Scotland do the same. We send information about each child, their illness or injury and how they respond to care – this is all kept safe and carefully analysed to see how well each unit is doing.

The care provided across the country for our acutely ill children is good and has been improving year on year – the report shows that 96% of children admitted to these units survive.

There is a great deal of detail available from PICANet and one important number we are given is the standardised mortality ratio. This figure tells us whether or not our children are doing better or worse than would be expected and compares us with other units.

If the number is below one it shows a better than average survival rate. We are encouraged that PICANet’s most recent report shows that, during the period January 2008 to December 2010, we cared for just over 2,400 children and our standardised mortality ratio was one of the best in the country at 0.69.

Although we know every death is a tragedy, we are proud that we are providing a very high standard of care.

Dr Michael Marsh, medical director at UHS, added: “I am incredibly proud of all the staff on PICU and what we have achieved for all the children that we have treated.

“Though the work is hard and at times emotionally challenging, we all feel it is a privilege to be able to make a positive difference to children’s lives.”

More information about our paediatric intensive care unit and PICANet’s work, including their detailed reports.