The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has resulted in an intense shock to many people that live in the UK. Measures implemented to slow down the overall spread of this virus have impacted our lives deeply. It has affected job security, people’s income, and social contact, which are all factors that are important for a healthy life. Many people have been left seeking support for a variety of issues, either from a mental health practitioner or a perhaps dietitian in Hampshire.
Local government and the public-health workforce have changed the way they work to try and contain this infection along with protecting the vulnerable. Yet all of this happens to be against the backdrop of many successful years of budget reductions. At the same time, the NHS has been mobilised radically to help respond to acute requirements of people that become infected with this virus and simultaneously scaling back non-Covid-19 health care needs. Social care, which has also weakened due to declining years of public funding along with rising demands, has been left reeling due to the significant impacts of the coronavirus. This has left many staff and users unprotected, poorly-accounted for, and fatally vulnerable in all the official data up until now.
From one day to the next, all eyes are on this crisis ending sharply, along with the rising tolls of Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths. But every week brings about a consistent release of national data sources that are more routine, with time lags of around one month or more. These are not the most accurate sources where blind spots in data in social care at home or community services have occurred. But, it has started to shine a spotlight on the contours relating to this infection, which started to take hold from March 2020 onwards.
In the next couple of weeks, the Health Foundation plans to publish brief commentaries and charts, in order to describe each dimension on the impacts of the coronavirus as they are unfolding, from care and health systems to the daily lives of people. To date, there is a minimum of five levels of impact, with an unknown distribution and depth.
The Direct Impacts Of COVID-19
The first level is how the virus has directly impacted serious illness and death. Early evidence derived from China, followed by Italy, suggested that this virus was more prone to killing people who are older, or those with underlying health conditions such as ischaemic heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. It also seemed to affect males more than females. The pattern in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England were very similar for patients with COVID-19 that required intensive care.
Impact on Acute Care
The secondary level of concern has to do with indirect impacts on the people with an acute condition that is not linked to Covid-19. During the month of March 2020, NHS trusts quickly re-designed and changed their services to accommodate the capacity to treat patients with Covid-19. This involved discharging thousands of patients to free up more beds and postponing many planned treatments, changing appointments online when possible and redeploying staff, which was a process widely covered by the media. NHS England published over fifty guidance sets to various hospital specialists when it comes to treating non-Covid-19 patients during this pandemic.
Non-Acute Care, which Includes General Practice
The third level of disruption affects people suffering from chronic conditions, or the people that require care that is less urgent have also been interrupted. General practices do most of the work when it comes to managing patients that suffer from chronic conditions. From the middle of March 2020, the way in which general practice operates has changed profoundly. According to guidance, any practice should move to a remote triage that allows patients to be assessed online or by phone before they are allowed access to health professionals or GPs. To allow for more capacity, GP practices were provided with an option to start deferring certain routine activities, which included medication reviews and health checks for any person aged 75 or older. Other medical activities, including child immunizations, is something that should have carried on. The public was also told to access NHS 111 rather than contacting their GPS if they displayed COVID-19 symptoms.
Social Distancing and Lockdown
The fourth level includes the medium-term and long-term impacts of government interventions when it comes to restricting movements to slow down the spread of Covid-19. The direct impacts that the lockdown has caused may be profound, for example, resulting in unemployment, bankruptcies, more hardship, neglect, and domestic abuse.