Visits to A&E fall by half due to coronavirus
Data from NHS England has shown that Accident & Emergency visits have dropped by half since the Covid-19 pandemic began, stooping to the lowest levels on record.
Pre-pandemic, over 2.1 million patients per month were going into A&E. That number fell to 1.53 million in March and then even further to 916,581 over April, the lowest numbers seen since 2010 when A&E trips started to be recorded.
Routine surgical procedures and cancer treatment have been slowed by the outbreak, as hospitals were told to halt services to free up beds for additional capacity in the fight against coronavirus.
NHS England figures show that GPs made 181,873 urgent cancer referrals over March, which is almost a fifth less than those recorded in March 2019.
The number of patients admitted for routine surgery and treatment dropped by a third in March 2020 compared to the same period last year.
The government now calling for such services to be resumed. However, a trio of think tanks consisting of the Nuffield Trust, King’s Fund and Health Foundation, has warned that restoring the normal flow of services could take months.
They pointed out that the availability of personal protective equipment [PPE] would need to be improved to allow for prolonged social distancing measures and that additional capacity would need to be set aside to weather a second Covid-19 peak, which may come in the winter.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: "With the virus still at large there is no easy route back to the way things were before. Unfortunately, that will mean people waiting much longer and some services being put on hold."
The NHS could make use of vacant space at its ten Covid-19 Nightingale hospitals to allow for other services to resume. Only two of these hospitals are currently being used to house coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, NHS figureheads have moved to reassure the public that urgent treatment is available if required and urged people to go to hospital if needed.
Doctor Deb Lowe, NHS England’s clinical director, has raised particular concern over the numbers of people suffering strokes and heart problems who require treatment but are staying away from hospital due to coronavirus.