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Development of a Scale to Assess the Attitudes of Paediatric Staff to Caring for Children with Medically Unexplained Symptoms: Implications for the Role of CAMHS in Paediatric Care

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Abstract

Background:  Children with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) represent a challenge for paediatricians and typically undergo extensive in-patient investigations for symptoms such as abdominal pain. This can delay access to psychological services. This study aims to develop and evaluate a scale to assess the attitudes of paediatric staff to caring for children with MUS and to explore factors influencing those attitudes.

Method:  In this cross-sectional survey, 118 health professionals at one UK hospital with experience of caring for children with MUS completed an attitude questionnaire developed for the study.

Results:  Factor analysis identified four factors that explained significant variance in staff perceptions of care: rewarding nature of care; demanding nature of care; parental influence; children’s need for skilled support. The combined subscales formed the MUS-Q.

Conclusion:  Paediatric staff found caring for children with MUS difficult and would welcome more support from CAMHS. The MUS-Q proved a reliable tool to evaluate staff attitudes.

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