New research by the Health Foundation shows that elective admissions to hospital by care home residents in England were lower than that of the general population for some clinical specialities during the first wave of COVID.
The research also shows that access to hospital care rapidly declined in the first three months of the pandemic, and was substantially lower than in the same period in 2019.
The research, which is due to be peer reviewed, provides the first comprehensive and national analysis of all hospital care provided to care home residents during this period. It appears to substantiate concerns that care home residents may have faced barriers to accessing hospital treatment as the NHS rapidly reorganised to free up hospital capacity to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Between March and May 2020, routine elective admissions for care home residents – which includes care such as cataract surgery, some cancer treatment and hip replacements – fell by 63 per cent (3,762 fewer admissions). This is compared to a 56 per cent reduction in routine admissions for the general population, which suggests that those living in care homes were particularly hard hit by the reduction in services.
During the same period, emergency hospital admissions from care homes for conditions other than COVID-19 – including stroke and heart attack – decreased by 36 per cent (13,191 fewer admissions). Reasons for this reduction include increased provision of alternative NHS care in the community, as well as changes in patient and carer preferences for hospital admission due to infection concerns.
With the NHS under ongoing pressure from COVID-19, the scale of the reduction in hospital admissions will mean that many care home residents will still be waiting for care and many are likely to be sicker as a result. The researchers note that a significant amount of the unmet need is for conditions that are likely to have a significant impact on people’s quality of life. For example, there was an 81 per cent reduction in admissions for cataracts procedures and cancer admissions fell by 49 per cent, compared with the previous year.
Sarah Deeny, assistant director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: “There is now an urgent need to address the substantial backlog of care among residents, alongside the country as a whole. It is vital that we ensure that those living in care homes are receiving appropriate hospital treatment.’