NICE clinical guideline for bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in children

Every parent knows the story and every parent dreads it. You take a feverish child to the doctors, you know something isn't right; but you are just sent back home with advice about paracetamol. Hours later the child is admitted to hospital with meningitis.

The first NICE Clinical Guideline for Bacterial Meningitis and Meningococcal Septicaemia in Children aims to make this scenario much less likely. The Guideline, which is currently being disseminated among health professionals throughout England, lays out the evidence and sets the standard for diagnostic and treatment pathways that can be used by frontline medical practioners from first contact and emergency care through to referral to an intensive care unit.

Northumbria University's Sheila Mcqueen was one of the consultants on the guideline development group.

"The Guideline is all about better recognition and improving urgent care," she says. "Alongside the full Guideline we have included a step-by-step quick-reference guide and symptom chart for use by GPs, paramedics and staff in walk-in centres, A&E departments and on general children's wards. Many of these health professionals may only see one or two cases of meningitis in their whole career. The Guideline provides an evidence-based template for identifying and treating meningitis which we hope should be displayed in all areas that assess children.

"One of the imperatives for us was to put parental concern at the centre of the Guideline, and the words 'Always take notice of parental concern' are in the very first box in the quick-reference guide. The Guideline recognises that the majority of children who have meningitis will present with non-specific symptoms and that some will inevitably be sent home, but the emphasis placed on parental concern and on other strategies for recognising meningitis will we hope make this less likely to happen."

Following input from parents of children who have had meningitis, the Guideline also emphasizes the importance of establishing systems to ensure ongoing care and support. It advocates for example that all children must have a post-meningococcal hearing test, the provision of which is not yet universal.

SOURCE Northumbria University

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