Responding to Understanding Society data on the reduction in treatment for people with long-term conditions, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:
'These latest findings show the serious impact COVID-19 has had on the delivery of services for people with long-term conditions like cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. That 63% of people with serious long-term conditions had their planned treatment cancelled suggests we may be storing up greater health problems for the future and underlines the huge challenge the NHS has faced in trying to provide routine care while also treating COVID-19 patients.
'Before the crisis, around 85% of the burden of disease in the UK was from long-term conditions. People with long-term conditions are also more prevalent among deprived groups who have been most impacted by COVID-19. While measures were put in place to protect and support vulnerable people, it’s evident that many people’s needs may have gone unmet during the lockdown, meaning their conditions may have worsened when they should have been receiving care. Urgent action is now needed to ensure that those who need regular, ongoing treatment, are able to get it when they need it.
'Understandably, people may still be worried about using health services for fear of infection or out of a desire to protect the NHS. Fully restarting services is going to be a challenge and needs to come with a strong public health message that gives people confidence that the NHS is safe and open for business.
'COVID-19 has shone a glaring spotlight on widening health inequalities in society. The government must act now to ensure that the most vulnerable in society get the care and support they need through this crisis.'
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