Patient safety

12.06.20

NHS Confederation: ‘Unseen impact’ of coronavirus revealed in data

NHS Confederation have warned about the potential unseen impacts of coronavirus on the population’s health which have been revealed in the latest NHS England performance figures, including significant backlog to treatments, delays in referrals and reduced numbers of A&E attendances.

Among the statistics released in the most recently-published report, A&E attendances in May 2020 had fallen 41.9% based on a year previously. Emergency admissions were also recorded as being 27.2% lower than in 2019, suggesting people had shown significant hesitancy in attending A&E, potentially causing diagnoses and necessary treatments to be missed.

An increased number of those who did attend A&E were seen within the targeted four hour window, though this is likely to have been largely the result of the reduced capacity.

At the end of April 2020, 71.3% of patients waiting to start treatment were facing a wait of up to 18 weeks according to the statistics, with 3.9 million patients awaiting a referral to treatment (RTT). Similar delays had also been seen in cancer referrals, partly impacted by reduced capacity and strict restrictions relating to coronavirus risk.

iStock-1144971911 

The potential unseen impacts of coronavirus on the population’s health which have been revealed in the latest NHS England performance figures.
 

Dr Layla McCay, a Director at NHS Confederation, said: “These figures lay bare the concerns of many health leaders across the country about the unseen impact of coronavirus on the population’s health, and how long it will take to clear the monumental backlog.

"It is very concerning to see the worries of health leaders confirmed by the data: GP referrals for suspected cancer have fallen dramatically; there has been an 85 per cent drop in routine surgical activity compared to the same period last year; and emergency admissions are still far lower than before the pandemic.

"Many of these missing patients still need care, and they will be seeking it, many at a more advanced stage of their illness, at a time when the NHS is still trying to balance the needs of coronavirus patients with the needs of a workforce that is overstretched and exhausted. It will be a real challenge.

 “The NHS remains open for business for urgent care, and is eager to resume full services for patients, but this cannot happen immediately – leaders face an uphill battle and will need extra funding and capacity, not least in rehabilitation and recovery services in the community, where so much of the coming demand will be felt.

 “These figures should act as a wake-up call that it will take time to recover from the shock of the first phase of the pandemic, and we need patience and understanding from politicians, as well as realistic expectations on what the NHS can deliver.”

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