Lockdown Devastation: 50,000 children see surgery postponed, treatments for strokes plunge by almost 50%,
A devastating picture of the impact of the lockdown on the nation’s health and wellbeing is revealed in an exclusive analysis that brings together more than 130 studies.
The audit, based on research published by medical journals, leading academics and charities – shows that the damage inflicted by the lockdown extends into every sphere of health, including cancer, heart disease, addiction, the welfare of children, domestic violence and mental illness.
Experts say the analysis suggests that even after the pandemic ends, it will take years for the NHS to catch up with backlogs – and it will be too late for tens of thousands of patients.
At least 25,000 more people have died at home during the pandemic in England and Wales because they were unable to – or chose not to – go to hospital, a surge of 43.8 per cent on normal levels.
And 85,400 people died in private homes rather than in hospitals or care homes between March 20, when lockdown started, and September 11, an Office for National Statistics report revealed, the equivalent of around 100 extra deaths a day.
Professor Karol Sikora, a cancer specialist and head of Buckingham Medical School, said the findings of the Mail’s audit were a ‘stunning demonstration of lockdowns’ harmful effects across society’.
He added: ‘If lockdown were a drug, you’d need to consider the side effects, and yet we’re not – even though we seem to be diving headlong into another one.
‘People sometimes claim it’s a question of health versus the economy, but it’s not – it’s health versus health.’ Professor Sikora supports last week’s Great Barrington Declaration, now signed by more than 10,700 scientists and 29,700 doctors worldwide, calling on governments to adopt an approach of ‘focused protection’, shielding the vulnerable while opening up the economy.
Sunetra Gupta, one of the Declaration’s authors and an Oxford University epidemiologist, said: ‘These papers and data are starting to build the evidence to show that the collateral damage has been immense – and will continue with extreme measures such as lockdowns. The time has surely come to take their full costs measures into account.’
Professor Allyson Pollock, a public health expert at Newcastle University, said: ‘I went along with the previous lockdown, but now the question is, did its harms outweigh the benefits, especially for children and young people?
‘I’m very uncertain about the evidence for the benefits of further blanket measures. They have not been evaluated, and may do real harm. Without very significant investment and expanded public service capacity, the damage will never be repaired. Even with it, it’s going to take years.’
The analysis shows that cancer patients have been especially hard hit and the full cost may not become clear for several years.
A British Medical Journal study found that during lockdown, endoscopies for bowel cancer averaged just 12 per cent of normal levels, and at one point were down to 5 per cent. Delays in bowel cancer diagnosis are likely to lead to between 650 and 2,250 excess deaths in England, according to another BMJ paper. A Lancet study found delays for breast, lung and oesophageal cancer patients caused by the lockdown were likely to cause a further 2,000 excess deaths.
A University College London study for the British Medical Journal found that hospital admissions for chemotherapy fell by up to 66 per cent in April, while urgent referrals for early cancer diagnosis were down by up to 89 per cent. It concluded that this would lead to 6,270 extra deaths in the first year.
According to another BMJ study, there were nearly 2,100 excess deaths in England from heart attacks and strokes, an increase of 8 per cent, while the numbers treated for strokes fell by 45 per cent. The Health Foundation said during the lockdown, accident and emergency visits in England fell by more than half, from more than 80,000 a week to just over 40,000.
Another Lancet paper discovered the average number of organ transplants performed every day fell from 11.6 to 3.1. The total who died while waiting for a transplant increased from 47 in the same period last year to 87 during the three months of lockdown.
Waiting lists for elective procedures rocketed. The numbers needing orthopaedic operations such as knee and hip replacements rose by more than a third to some 700,000. More than 600,000 people are now waiting for eye procedures for conditions such as cataracts.
According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 50,000 children in England had scheduled operations cancelled. The impacts on mental health and addiction to drugs and alcohol were also severe.
The Office of National Statistics found that rates of depression across all ages and genders in England roughly doubled, from one in ten to one in five.
Another paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry said 18 per cent of UK adults reported having suicidal thoughts in the first month of the lockdown. Another suggested: ‘There is a high probability that suicide rates will increase.’
The charity Action on Addiction found that patients recovering from drug or alcohol addiction were likely to suffer a relapse – almost 40 per cent of the total.
There was a surge in calls to the NSPCC emergency helpline, from an average of 5,593 a week before the lockdown to 8,287 in May.
Calls to the domestic abuse charity Refuge were also almost 50 per cent higher in April than the average before the pandemic.