Activity data from NHS Digital for January 2021 in Figure 2.2 illustrates how the number of elective procedures fell as demand from COVID patients rose rapidly at the start of the year, but not as precipitously as the first lockdown in March 2020. That said, it still represents a significant increase to the backlog of untreated illness in the community, and both discourages and disrupts health seeking behaviours.
Figure 2.2 - Elective procedures in NHS - 2020/1 vs 2019/20
Similar reductions in outpatient attendances are likely to reflect patient fears and lack of referrals, as well as capacity constraints. During the first wave, the numbers of admitted heart attacks and strokes fell dramatically. More recent data published by the University of Leeds and set out in Figure 2.3 found comparable changes in January 2021 whereby admissions for heart attacks were 34% lower than before the pandemic, and 41% lower for heart failure admissions.
Figure 2.3 - Heart attack & heart failure admissions compared to previous year