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Using a simple decision rule and a finger prick to test blood, GPs could substantially reduce the number of ill children being referred to hospital, if the test is used on children identified as 'at-risk' of a serious infection.

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The researchers from Belgium and Oxford, led by Dr Jan Verbakel, an Honorary Clinical Lecturer in Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, say their findings are important for improving the accuracy of diagnosis of unwell children in primary care, which could reduce the number of unnecessary hospital referrals, and, ultimately, the strain on secondary health care services.

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