THE “Protect the NHS” message during the coronavirus lockdown lead to a 90 per cent drop in hospital admissions which may have caused THOUSANDS of deaths.
A major report into 200 health conditions has revealed that consultations for common cancers fell by two thirds while heart-attack checks were cut by nearly half.
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The “Protect the NHS” message during the coronavirus lockdown lead to a 90 per cent drop in hospital admissions[/caption]
Experts labelled the analysis “staggering” and warned such a situation could not be repeated in the case of a second wave, the Telegraph reports.
NHS figures show there were only 4,640 hospital admissions in April and May, compared to a five-year average of 12,589.
It also comes as the Care Quality Commission said that 25 million GP appointments have been lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
Medics are concerned that a delay in diagnoses could lead to a spike in cancer deaths.
Cancer Research UK said that since March more than 350,000 people who would normally get an urgent referral to hospital had not been to see doctors.
While medical research suggests the delays in diagnoses this year could mean an extra 35,000 deaths.
During the height of lockdown the government, and leading doctors and nurses, urged Brits to “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.”
The message was meant to deter people from breaking lockdown rules, like socialising in friends’ homes.
But instead it deterred those with health conditions or urgent need from getting help in hospitals in fear of burdening the NHS or catching Covid-19.
Analysis, by healthcare analyst Dr Foster, shows that diagnoses for prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer in men, fell by 64 per cent.
Bowel cancel, which is the second most lethal cancer in the UK, saw a 39 per cent drop in admissions.
This meant just 8,184 cases were seen – significantly less than the 13,488 average.
Admissions for breast cancer – the most common form of cancer for women – dropped by 30 per cent, with 25,711 when 36,848 would have been expected.
While patients complaining of “nonspecific cardiac chest pain” – which can be symptomatic of a heart attack – slumped by 41 per cent.
Those being diagnosed with a heart attack reduced by 27 per cent.
Patients needing treatment or a diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders were down by 90 per cent.
Experts fear patients could be kept away from hospitals in the same way in another lockdown, as No10 sends out a similar message ahead of a possible second wave this winter.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned earlier this month that the crisis was at a “perilous” stage and could cause the “implosion” of the NHS – unless cases were reduced.
He added: “We know from bitter experience that the more coronavirus spreads, the harder it is to do all the other vital work of the NHS.
“The message to the public must be that we all have a part to play to control this virus.”
It’s critical that we take forward the lessons learnt so far to ensure cancer patients get the care they need through a second wave of the virus.”
Kruti ShrotriCancer Research UK policy manager
Hospitals in Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, Swansea and Plymouth have already cancelled some planned surgery.
While patients at University Hospital Birmingham have been warned they will be turned away at A&E if their condition is not urgent.
The NHS has launched the Help Us to Help You campaign to encourage patients to understand they will not be seen as a burden if they seek help for non-Covid conditions.
Kruti Shrotri, Cancer Research UK policy manager, said the figures showed the “devastating impact” the pandemic has had on diagnosing and treating patients.
She added: “As health services are now having to manage a resurgence of Covid-19 on top of usual winter pressures, it’s critical that we take forward the lessons learnt so far to ensure cancer patients get the care they need through a second wave of the virus.”
An NHS spokesman claimed hospital admissions had “rebounded” since the lockdown.
He said: “At the height of the first coronavirus peak and lockdown, some people chose to postpone care, but since then hospital admissions have now rebounded, routine operations have more than doubled and cancer treatments are now taking place at well above usual levels.
“The NHS message to the public has been quite clear – do not delay, help us help you by coming forward so you can get the care you need.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned earlier this month that the crisis was at a “perilous” stage[/caption]