Hip and knee ops fell by more in UK than in any EU nation in 2020 | Health – Help US
Britain may be the hobbling man of Europe, according to figures showing that the fall in hip and knee surgeries as a result of the Covid pandemic was greater in the UK than in any EU country.
The number of hip replacement operations fell 46% in 2020 in the UK, compared with just 7% in Germany and 12% in France. Meanwhile, the number of knee operations slumped 68% in the UK, compared with just 3% in Finland and an average of 24% across the EU.
The figures, from a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Commission, come as the government scrambles to clear the still rising elective care backlog, which topped 7 million people in September.
Last month, the health secretary, Steve Barclay, announced a £1.5bn plan for 50 new elective surgery hubs in hospitals, but nursing strikes now threaten new delays.
On the plus side, the UK increased its flu vaccination and breast cancer screening rates for women aged 50 to 69 by more than the average EU country, the Europe-wide analysis of the impact of the pandemic on health systems across the continent shows.
The wide-ranging assessment found that Covid-19 led to a reduction of more than one year in life expectancy in the EU in 2021 compared with the pre-pandemic level, with the largest drops observed in most EU countries since the second world war.
By the end of October 2022, there had been more than 1.4m deaths from Covid and as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic across the 27 EU countries, with nine out of 10 fatalities among people over the age of 60.
The NHS prioritised cancer treatment throughout the pandemic, when there was huge pressure on staffing numbers as tens of thousands of health workers had to isolate as a result of Covid and wards were turned over to treating the virus.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “It is simply wrong to suggest that the NHS shut down services during the pandemic. In fact, over 780,000 people in England have started treatment for cancer since March 2020 – 94% within a month. Breast and cervical cancer screening were around a fifth higher than the EU average during the pandemic and waiting times for hip and knee replacements in the UK were the third lowest.
“While fewer people did come forward during the early months of the pandemic, the NHS has worked extremely hard to encourage people to get concerning symptoms checked, and thanks to our biggest ever national cancer awareness campaign and record numbers of GP appointments, more people than ever before are getting checked for cancer – over 250,000 people in September alone.”
The OECD study also highlighted the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. It reported: “In several European countries such as Belgium, Estonia, France, Sweden and Norway, the share of young people reporting symptoms of depression more than doubled during the pandemic, reaching prevalence levels at least twice as high as in older age groups.
“Many children and young people also spent considerably less time engaging in physical activity and had worsening nutrition habits, with indications of a rise in child overweight and obesity in some countries.”