There was an “incredible spike” in the number of “seriously ill” children who were admitted into Bucks hospitals this winter, it has been revealed.

Stoke Mandeville’s high dependency unit, in Aylesbury, had more than double the number of admissions compared to last year due to the increased pressures, according to health bosses.

Clinical director of children’s services at Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Juliet Sutton, said there were “real peaks” in respiratory illnesses, such as bronchiolitis.

Speaking during a meeting of Bucks County Council’s health and wellbeing board on Thursday (March 28), Dr Sutton said: “This winter we have had an incredible spike in children’s admissions and it’s very difficult to know how to account for that, but there has just been a very large amount of very sick children this winter.

“The high dependency unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital was over double the occupancy than the year before.

“Whilst that is now reduced, there are times that despite everything you do, you cannot avoid that.

“Sometimes there are things like bronchiolitis, real peaks, and particularly with respiratory illnesses this year we saw a real peak.

“The children’s side of things really needs very urgent attention.”

South Bucks district councillor, John Read, asked if the spike could be linked to the “rather concerning anti-vaccination sentiment” that has hit the headlines in recent weeks.

However Dr Sutton said that while vaccination targets are dropping, she cannot say “there is a direct link” with rising hospital admissions.

She said: “I don’t think we can particularly say that is the case because vaccinations are for things like meningitis, and admissions haven’t been particularly for things like that – it has been the respiratory conditions, like bronchiolitis, which can’t be vaccinated for.

“It is of concern, and in some areas, particularly the measles mumps and rubella vaccine, are dropping again and we are all concerned about it, but we can’t say there is a direct link with increased admissions.”

However, despite the increased pressures, healthcare provided to hospital patients has “improved” over the winter period.

Director of strategy and business development at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, David Williams, said: “I just want to acknowledge from a hospital perspective the support the system has provided for some of our sick and critically ill patients over the winter period.

“The work of the system this year has improved, we are seeing increasing demand on our services, but the work of the system keeps patients safe and well during that period.”