Background Wirral University Teaching Hospital is a large district general hospital situated on the Wirral Peninsula, UK. Because of the district's geographical and demographic characteristics, Wirral is an ideal location for population-based studies. Information on community paediatric referrals, case mix and outcomes is scarce. We took advantage of our situation to conduct an epidemiological study of referrals to community paediatrics in Wirral. A companion paper examines referrals to general paediatricians during the same period.
Methods A prospective observational study of community paediatric outpatient referrals between 1 February and 31 May 2006 for all children under the age of 15 offered a new patient appointment during the study period. The study was conducted using the same methodology as a previous population-based study of community paediatric outpatients in Northampton, UK in 1998. We compared our results with this previous study.
Results The referral rate was 10.1 per 1000 children under 15 per annum. School nurses and health visitors made nearly half the referrals, with general practitioners referring most of the remainder. Compared with the Northampton study, more children were seen by consultants. Case mix showed a shift towards behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders, with less general paediatrics. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was the commonest disorder seen (28.2%), a significant increase from the previous study (3.4%) (P < 0.01). Autism spectrum disorder showed little change (8.1% vs. 9.6%; NS). The Wirral study showed significantly more follow-up compared with the Northampton.
Conclusions This population-based study gives a unique insight into the epidemiology of referrals to community paediatricians in the UK in 2006 and how these differ from those recorded in a different UK district in 1998.