Four million people missed hospital treatment in England due to increased pressure on the NHS caused by the pandemic in 2020.
This is according to analysis carried out by independent charity The Health Foundation which shows while the NHS has made “substantial” progress towards restarting suspended hospital services during the pandemic, only 12m treatments were completed during 2020 – compared with 16m during 2019.
The largest impact on treatment activity was witnessed in trauma and orthopaedics, oral surgery and ear, nose and throat (ENT), indicating respective falls of 38%, 37% and 37% on 2019.
While all regions experienced significant reductions in treatments, the largest fall was recorded in the North West, with 31% fewer treatments in 2020 than in 2019. The smallest reduction was seen in the South West, which still recorded a 24% decline on 2019.
The findings also show that between 2019 and 2020, the number of completed treatments fell by 9,162 per 100,000 population in the most deprived areas of England. This compares with a fall of 6,765 in the least deprived areas.
As of January 2021, the number of patients who had waited longer than six months for treatment exceeded 1m, with around 304,000 people waiting over a year for treatment.
NHS waiting lists are now at their highest level since comparable records began (in 2007), currently at 4.6m, compared with 4.4m before the pandemic.