Medics have raised the alarm over the ability of the NHS to cope with increased rates of strep A, after reports that a 12-year-old schoolboy from London had become the latest child to die after contracting a rare, invasive form of the infection.
On Sunday, cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi urged parents to be vigilant for signs of streptococcus A, even though most cases are mild.
“It is really important to be vigilant because in the very rare circumstance that it becomes serious, then it needs urgent treatment,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
It was reported on Saturday that a 12-year-old year 8 pupil from a school in south London had died after developing the infection, which would take the total number of deaths to seven.
On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that six children under 10 had died after contracting a strep A infection since September, as it issued a rare alert in response to a rise in cases across the country.
Medical professionals have raised concerns about how frontline NHS services will cope with a likely influx of concerned parents, and the difficulties of spotting serious cases from minor symptoms.
Neena Modi, professor of neonatal medicine at Imperial College London, said both GP services and A&E were “on their knees”.
“The last thing we want is for A&E departments to be flooded with a new influx of worried parents,” she said.
She also said the NHS 111 service was ineffective when dealing with ill children.
“These algorithms have been shown time and again to not be sensitive enough to actually separate out the critically ill child from those who have milder symptoms,” she said. “So NHS 111 is not fit for purpose for really young children.”