Our team has quantified the activity reduction for the majority of the most common diagnosis and procedure groups by comparing the observed spell volume for diagnosis/procedure groups in April 2020 with their expected volume.
There has been widespread concern around the potential longer-term public health impact of the pandemic and, as NHS trusts work to restore elective services, Dr Foster has undertaken an in-depth analysis of activity reduction using Hospital Episode Statistics to help paint a clearer picture of how spell volume and diagnosis rates were affected during the peak of the crisis.
The analysis found that, across the board, there was a significant reduction in elective spell volume during April-May 2020, with some diagnosis groups showing a staggering 90 per cent drop. Cancer diagnoses rates fell. There was also a marked reduction in emergency activity, with the exception of childbirth and, unsurprisingly, viral infections, which showed a huge increase of 242 per cent across both months.
Interestingly, the analysis also found that fewer patients presented with cardiac dysrhythmias, which may be the result of people avoiding healthcare facilities for risk of overburdening services or becoming infected with COVID-19. This is of particular concern as missed diagnoses of these types of conditions can increase the risk of complications further down the line.
At trust level, the study showed a large volume drop in both elective and non-elective activity across all organisations. Overall, the analysis suggests that the long-term effects of the pandemic are likely to be far-reaching, with a future spike in demand possible due to missed diagnoses and postponed procedures. Cancers may now require a greater level of treatment, or even be untreatable, if they have been left undetected or untreated as a result of the crisis. Further analysis at trust-level is needed to help organisations understand their backlog and which services and patients to prioritise.