Emergency admissions to London hospitals slumped by a quarter during 10 months last year, a new study into the impact of Covid-19 revealed on Thursday.
It also highlighted that people from black and Asian communities were significantly more likely to have stayed away from the NHS between March and December.
Overall, elective hospital admissions dropped by a third last year, while outpatient appointments and non-Covid emergency admissions each fell by a fifth.
The new analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Harvard University and Imperial College London showed there were 2.9 million fewer planned admissions, 1.2 million fewer non-Covid-19 emergency inpatient admissions and 17.1 million fewer outpatient appointments between March and December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
The report’s key findings:
London suffered the biggest fall in emergency admissions, a fall of a quarter. By contrast, there was a fall of 16 per cent in emergency admissions in the South West.
The most deprived fifth of local areas of the country had 23 per cent fewer emergency admissions in March to December compared with a 20 per cent reduction in the least deprived fifth of areas.
The North and Midlands experienced bigger reductions in hospital activity than the South and East of England. Elective admissions fell by nearly 40 per cent in Yorkshire.
There are substantial differences by ethnicity. White individuals had a 37 per cent reduction in elective admissions, compared with 36 per cent for Asian individuals and 24 per cent for black individuals.
Paediatrics saw the largest reduction in emergency admissions, 41 per cent (242,000) compared with the same period the year before. Some of this fall will likely reflect a genuinely reduced need for emergency care but still raises concerns that not all children have received the appropriate treatment during the pandemic, the report stressed.
The report’s author Max Warner, an IFS research economist, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic forced the English NHS to reduce much of its normal hospital activity, while the number of emergency patients attending hospital has also fallen drastically. This has affected millions of people, and will cost the government billions of pounds to catch up on missed treatment.
“There are striking differences by ethnicity in the use of emergency care, with black and Asian individuals seeing much larger reductions than white individuals.
“This risks exacerbating both health inequalities that existed before the pandemic and ethnic disparities in the impact of Covid-19. Large reductions in the use of emergency care in particular groups, on top of a larger impact of Covid-19, are therefore alarming.”
He added: “Ultimately what matters is how the loss of care has affected health and well-being. Some of the missed care will have little consequence for future health but some of it will be very important. It is therefore essential to learn more about how these changes in hospital use have affected patient outcomes during this period and which groups need particular support.”