Responding to the publication of the monthly NHS England performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'The NHS and social care system is making heroic efforts to respond to the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus (COVID-19), and that is having a dramatic impact on how people seek care and the care that is being delivered. Having risen year-on-year since records began, today’s data show a substantial drop in A&E visits last month, with over 600,000 fewer people (a 29% drop) attending A&E compared to the same time last year and 120,000 fewer people being admitted. Meanwhile calls to NHS 111 have surged – there were more than twice as many last month compared to the same time last year.
'This suggests that many of those who might have attended A&E previously could be seeking clinical advice elsewhere, and that 111 is playing a critical role in advising people on how to access care. On the face of it, this may indicate that people are following the official advice to try to avoid going straight to A&E.
'It is important that people continue to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus, reduce pressure on the NHS, and enable the service to tackle COVID-19 by treating those who are most seriously ill. However, people should continue to feel able to seek treatment for serious conditions and further work is needed to understand who is not coming to A&E and whether unmet needs are being stored up for the future.'
- According to NHS England, 1,531,100 people attended A&E departments in England in March 2020, a 29.4% reduction on the 2,167,551 people who attended in March 2019.
- There was a total of 427,921 emergency admissions in March 2020, a fall of 23.0% on the 555,457 emergency admissions in March 2019.
- A total of 2,962,751 calls were made to NHS 111 in March 2020, more than double the 1,447,126 calls made in March 2019. Despite the increased number of calls, 111 advised fewer numbers of people to attend A&E and dispatched fewer ambulances than in March 2019.