According to the wonderfully entitled Knowledge and Intelligence office at the Department of Health there are 423 paediatric critical care beds available in the UK. For most of the time some 80% of these (331) are occupied. Additionally, there are some 1365 neo-natal critical care beds. I mention this as last Sunday; just a week ago, I was sitting by one of these beds in the 21 bedded Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Manchester Children’s Hospital.
I was there because my youngest grandson had been admitted a week before with pneumonia and he had spent the previous week sedated and ventilated. Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli (little air sacs) become filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.
Pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide. Every year, it kills an estimated 1.2 million children below the age of 5 years old. These deaths account for 18% of all deaths of children under 5 years old worldwide. Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere, but is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Last Friday it was Red Nose Day and among the music and fun of the night there were very moving films on the effects of malaria, pneumonia and starvation in Africa. The last Red Nose Day, 2 years ago, raised £74.3 million, a figure exceeded this year by the on the night total so far of £75,107,851. At least £5 million of this figure is to be dedicated for vaccination programmes for pneumonia.