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A&E admissions fall to record low in England amid coronavirus fears

‘This is a ticking timebomb in itself and it will be exacerbated by a myriad of other pressures in the coming weeks,’ doctor says

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 14 May 2020 10:58 BST
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A&E attendances in England have fallen to their lowest figure on record as people stay away from hospitals in the face of coronavirus, new figures suggest.

NHS England data shows 0.9 million attendances were recorded in April 2020, down 57 per cent from 2.1 million in April 2019.

It is the lowest for any calendar month since records began in August 2010.

NHS England said the fall was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” ⁠— an indication people have been avoiding A&E departments because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a sharp fall last month, down 39 per cent from 535,226 in April 2019 to 326,581 in April 2020.

It is the lowest number reported for any calendar month since current records began.

Data also show the number of patients waiting to start treatment at the end of March was 4.2 million, down on the 4.4 million in the previous month.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the drop in A&E attendances was “a significant concern” and people’s conditions may have worsened as a result.

“This is a ticking timebomb in itself and it will be exacerbated by a myriad of other pressures in the coming weeks,” he said.

“There will be an ongoing need to keep people with coronavirus separate from others to prevent transmission, with segregated wards effectively reducing immediately available beds, so attempting to manage increased demand will be very challenging.

“I am also highly concerned about the resilience of staff who have been working flat out with little time for recovery, which means they will continue to suffer personal sacrifice as we move through the stages of this crisis.”

Separate figures from NHS England show the volume of calls to the NHS 111 service in April were up slightly on the same month in 2019, following a big spike in March.

An average of 55,200 calls a day were made in April 2020, 14% higher than the average of 48,400 a day in April 2019.

This compares with an average of 95,600 calls a day in March 2020 ⁠— more than double the average for March 2019.

NHS England said NHS 111 service levels had been heavily affected by increased demand caused by coronavirus, but that figures so far for May showed a return to call volumes only slightly higher than the demand expected at this time of year.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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