Six children are taken to hospital with pneumonia every hour in England with Yorkshire having one of the highest admission rates in the country, a global report has revealed.
Hospital admissions have risen more than 50 per cent over the last decade, with 56,000 child emergency admissions for the disease in the last financial year.
Save the Children and Unicef analysed provisional NHS Digital data on emergency child admissions between April 2018 and March 2019 and found more children were admitted from the most deprived areas.
The 10 per cent most deprived areas of England recorded 525.6 admissions for all-cause pneumonia per 100,000 population, compared to 381.2 in the 10 per cent least deprived.
NHS Ryedale and Scarborough Clinical Commissioning Group in North Yorkshire was the worst affected area and had the highest rate of admissions with 1,058 per 100,000 patients.
In 2018, 27 children in England died from pneumonia, which is caused by a bacteria, viruses or fungi, and affects breathing as the lungs fill with pus and fluid.
Children with weakened immune systems, by malnutrition or other infections, and those in areas with high air pollution levels, are at greater risk of developing the disease.
The charities said the UK must lead the way in tackling a “forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response”.
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Nick Roseveare, interim executive director of Unicef UK, said: “We’re lucky in the UK that we have the NHS and a childhood vaccination programme which includes pneumonia and influenza, so fewer children get these illnesses in the first place.
“If they do get ill, most can be treated within our healthcare system.
“However, these findings show that for thousands of children outside of the UK, pneumonia is not an illness of the past but a killer in the present that will continue to prematurely take children’s lives if we don’t act now.
“Pneumonia can be easily prevented and cured with simple and cost-effective measures, yet it remains the main infectious cause of death among children under five globally.
“We can change this, we must change this.”
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The charities are calling on the next UK government to spend more of its overseas aid budget on healthcare.
They also want the next UK leaders to pledge to ensure the continuation of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a private-public partnership giving children in the poorest countries access to vaccines.
And they want the UK to commit £800 million a year from 2021 to 2025 to tackle malnutrition - the most significant driver of pneumonia in children.
Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children, said: “This is a forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response. Millions of children are dying for want of vaccines, affordable antibiotics, and routine oxygen treatment. The pneumonia crisis is a symptom of neglect and indefensible inequalities in access to health care.”
NHS Ryedale and Scarborough Clinical Commissioning Group has been contacted by The Yorkshire Post for a comment on the figures released today.