Managing Respiratory Syncytial Virus


We are seeing an increase in the number of children with RSV and expect these numbers to continue to grow as large numbers of children are exposed to viruses that they have not yet experienced.

NHS England has been planning for a potential rise in paediatric respiratory infections since April 2021, with paediatric units bringing forward their usual winter planning, escalation and emergency processes which will support an increased capacity in terms of beds, workforce and ward supplies.

As part of NHS preparedness and in response to summer case detections by PHE surveillance, the offer of the preventative medicine palivizumab has been brought forward from the usual October start date and the number of doses has been extended from 5 to 7.

Palivizumab will also be offered to a young children who are at the highest risk of complications from RSV, reducing the risk of hospitalisation in those most vulnerable.

PHE has also extended its surveillance system to ensure early signals of respiratory illnesses are being reported from a sample of NHS trusts. This usually ends in May and resumes in October, but will now continue into the summer months.

Public Health England (PHE) modelling on the impact of an increase in cases of RSV this season is work in progress however, it has listed three possible scenarios with the first listed being most likely and the third least likely.

  1. An earlier outbreak with 20-50% increase in total number of RSV cases / admissions.
  2. A normal or quieter than normal RSV season (particularly if Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions are maintained).
  3. Larger outbreak with 100% increase in total number of RSV cases / admissions.

Actions for health professionals

We all have a part to play in caring for children who present with RSV effectively and helping to educate parents on how to be confident about caring for their unwell child. Please make sure that you:

Bronchiolitis pathways

Useful resources


Updated: 11/10/2021