Explaining Children and Adult areas in the Emergency Department (ED)

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY1133/2020
  • Departments: Emergency Department, Paediatrics
  • Last Updated: 30 June 2020


The Emergency Department (ED, also known as A&E), is divided into several different areas:

Children’s ED

This area sees children with injuries and illnesses. Both minor and severe problems are seen here. There are a number of cubicles and a resuscitation room.


Trolley patients (adults) with injuries and illnesses are seen here.


The most seriously unwell or injured adults are seen here.

Emergency Care Area (ECA)

Adults walking into the department with illnesses and injuries are seen here.

Primary Care Area (PCA)

Adults are seen here by doctors, primary care practitioners and nurse practitioners, with minor injuries and illnesses.

All areas of the department work closely together.

What are the age limits in each area?

Children, by law, are those up to the age of 18. However, paediatricians (doctors specialising in the treatment of children) usually see patients up the age of 16. From the age of 16, patients are usually cared for by “adult” doctors, except in certain specialist cases. This happens all across the United Kingdom and not just in Hull.

In the ED in Hull, patients aged 16 or 17 can choose to be seen in either a children’s area or one of the adult areas. This choice should be made by the young person and their family depending on whether they see themselves as a child or as an adult.

Sometimes, we may ask patients aged 16 or 17 to go to an adult area if we feel this is more appropriate. On rare occasions, we may also ask patients under 16 to go to an adult area for the same reason. They will be cared for there by a children’s nurse.

At 18, all patients must use an adult area of the ED, unless decided otherwise by the ED consultant and nurse in charge.

What about the rest of the hospital?

In the vast majority of cases, those aged 16 or above, if they need to be referred to a specialist by the ED team, will be referred to an “adult” specialist, even if they have attended the children’s area of the ED.

In the vast majority of cases, those aged 16 or above who need to be admitted to a hospital ward will be admitted to an adult ward, even if they have attended the children’s area of the ED.

What if my son / daughter is under a paediatrician?

If your son or daughter is under a paediatrician for a long-term condition and they attend the ED with symptoms related to that condition, they should attend the Children’s ED. It is possible that they will go to a children’s ward if they need to stay in hospital, but we cannot guarantee this. Where appropriate we will discuss their case with their paediatrician.

What if my son / daughter has a learning disability (special educational needs)?

If your son or daughter has a learning disability (special educational needs) they can use the children’s ED if you think this will be more appropriate for them. You can also choose to use an adult area instead, for the same reason. If they need to be admitted to hospital we will try to admit them to the most appropriate ward. We cannot guarantee your choice of adult or children’s ward but we will try to take this into account.

Which area will be quickest for getting seen?

Unfortunately we are unable to answer this. We would advise that you do not choose where to be seen based on how quickly you think you will be seen. Patients aged 16 or 17 should make the choice based on whether they feel they are an adult or a child.

How can I get more information?

Please speak to the ED Nurse in Charge if you have more questions or if you are concerned about the area in which you are being seen.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats your child, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to your child. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your child’s condition, the alternatives available for your child, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about your child

We collect and use your child’s information to provide your child with care and treatment. As part of your child’s care, information about your child will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your child’s information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide your child with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your child’s doctor, or the person caring for your child.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about your child. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you need information about your child’s (or a child you care for) health and wellbeing and their care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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