Care home resident talking with a staff member

Health Foundation research reveals scale of hospital backlog

New research released by the Health Foundation shows the amount of hospital care received by those living in care homes in England rapidly declined over the first three months of the pandemic in 2020, and was significantly lower than the same period in 2019.

The research, which is due to be peer reviewed, represents some of the first comprehensive national analysis of hospital care provided to care home residents during the pandemic’s first wave.

Many of those who saw delays to their care during this time are likely to factor into the NHS’ significant treatment backlog.

Emergency hospital admissions from care homes for conditions over than Covid-19, including stroke and heart attack, decreased by 36% (equivalent to some 13,000 fewer admissions) between March and May 2020.

Over the same period, routine elective admissions for care home residents, including cataract surgery, some cancer treatment and hip replacements, fell by 63% (more than 3,500 fewer admissions) during the same period.

As such, the researchers raised concerns over whether care home residents had faced barriers to accessing hospital treatment during the period where the NHS was forced to rapidly reorganise care delivery to free up hospital capacity to care for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Many of those who faced delays may have seen their conditions deteriorate and now require additional treatment.

Recent data suggests the overall backlog of demand for NHS services in England has steadily increased over the course of 2020 and now stands at 4.5 million people who are waiting for treatment - the highest level recorded since comparable records began in 2008.

Sarah Deeny, Assistant Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: “Despite the falling numbers of Covid-19 cases, hospitals are still struggling to provide care for other conditions.

“That the majority of care home residents have now been vaccinated is a substantial achievement and a very positive development.

“But there is now an urgent need to address the substantial backlog of care among residents, alongside the country as a whole. It is vital that we ensure that those living in care homes are receiving appropriate hospital treatment.”

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As was outlined by Sir Simon Stevens when the NHS announced their green plans back in 2020, 5,700 lives could be saved each year by improved air quality. Even more could see their overall health improve and be in a position to self-manage their conditions, rather than requiring NHS treatment. Covid-19 has already left the NHS with a sizeable treatment backlog, so anything which can be done to improve patient health and reduce demand is beneficial for all.

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