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Mental health and Covid-19

Understanding the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on mental health

This project is investigating the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown on mental health in the UK. In March 2020, the UK government, along with other countries worldwide, introduced a lockdown to attempt to control the rate of coronavirus infections, to prevent overburden of the NHS and to reduce the number of deaths associated with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Whilst these measures ensured that the NHS was able to cope with the number of patients, the effect of the 2020 pandemic and of the national measures introduced to control it, is not yet fully understood.

In this project we used primary care data to investigate:

1. the effect of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis on the mental health of the population

2. the way that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK responded to the pandemic.

An observational study was conducted to investigate changes in weekly counts of mental health consultations and prescriptions. The data were extracted from the Oxford’s Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Clinical Informatics Digital Hub (ORCHID) database, one of the UK’s largest primary care databases. Data were extracted from the period of January 1st 2015 to October 31st 2020. The 2020 trends were compared to the 2015-19 average with 95% confidence intervals using longitudinal plots.

The figures show that during the period of national restrictions in 2020, on average, there were 31% fewer consultations and 6% more prescriptions per week as compared to the 2015-19 average. The difference in consultations and prescriptions of 2020 compared with 2015-19, was especially marked at the beginning of the restrictions period. The number of consultations was recovering, and the count of prescriptions returned to the 2015-19 levels by the end of the study.

The significant reduction in the number of consultations represents part of the crisis. Service planning and quality improvements are needed to address similar critical events in the future, and to reduce the negative effect on health and healthcare.  



This work is ongoing and we are keen to work with as many people as possible. Please contact us if you would like to know more or want to discuss the challenges in your work environment.

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