Our work

Spotting the Sick Child

Department of Health

Website: www.spottingthesickchild.com

Spotting the Sick Child was commissioned by The Department of Health to support members of the medical profession in examining and diagnosing the seven most common acute problems that children present with. These include rash, breathing difficulties, dehydration, fever, fits, abdominal pain and head injury. The e-learning tool is designed to be interactive and practical with video guides, assessments of real life patient cases, how to sections and background medical information. Participants can assess and track their own progress in a variety of simulated situations.

I believe this tool has great potential to improve practice and in view of the difficulties in assessing sick children, it is vital this achieves a high profile in the education and training of all health professionals who assess ill children.   Sheila Shribman National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Maternity Services Department of Health
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project challenges

Spotting the Sick Child is actually the second edition of a hugely successful DVD release in 2004, 20,000 of which have subsequently been distributed within the NHS. As such one of the greatest challenges was ensuring that a similarly successful second edition was produced. The material itself also need to be updated and the scope expanded to cover a wider range of clinical signs and symptoms. A large volume of positive feedback from the established user base was also received, particularly with requests for new areas to cover, which had to be taken into account during the planning process.


Early in the project it was decided that the Spotting the Sick Child should be produced as a website. Not only would this ensure that a wider audience could be reached at a lesser cost (as opposed to a DVD), it also paved the way for the inclusion of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, certification and a personalised learning experience. The scope was also expanded to integrate the NICE Feverish Child, Head Injury and UTI guidelines and to map the presentation of signs to the NICE ‘traffic light’ scheme.

In order to promote the resource within the community endorsements from the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath, National Patient Safety Agency and the College of Emergency Medicine were successfully sought. Finally, the need to collect such a large volume of new clinical video material was resolved through creating, supporting and funding a dedicated, consultant-led clinical team in the local emergency medicine department.


In the first year of release Spotting the Sick Child attracted over 8,000 healthcare professionals from across the NHS, with numbers continuing to grow. Such is the success of the resource that the Department of Health used the platform to release an update on swine ‘flu shortly after its release. In addition to this further modules covering meningitis and diagnosing illness in children with learning disabilities, with the support of leading child health charities, are shortly to be included. Spotting the Sick Child has therefore proved to be a highly regarded and welcomed resource central to the training of healthcare professionals within the NHS, becoming one of the standard paediatric learning resources.