Medically unexplained physical symptoms in children: exploring hospital staff perceptions

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;14(4):575-87. doi: 10.1177/1359104509338437.


Many children present at GP surgeries with debilitating symptoms with no obvious physical cause and are then referred to acute settings for investigation. Research with GPs suggests caring for this group of patients presents a significant challenge, however, the impact upon the range of hospital staff with whom they have contact has been little studied. This study aimed to explore perceptions and experiences of caring for children with medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) and their families among the paediatric staff at one large UK hospital Trust. Data demonstrated staff awareness that children affected by MUPS have complex needs and the perception that those needs resulted in extra demands and anxieties, especially regarding time management, care protocols and communication. There was a clear desire by general paediatric staff for more information and training from psychiatric services to help them care for this group. Results also revealed staff perceptions of the quality of current MUPS care and suggestions as to how this could be improved.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Family Conflict / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malingering / diagnosis
  • Malingering / psychology
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Patient Care Team
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Sick Role
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy