One in eight people aged over 50 in England had a hospital operation or treatment cancelled last year, a study by UCL has found.
Eye and cancer-related surgery were the most common treatments that were put on hold, as lockdown restrictions disrupted healthcare.
Older patients and those in the poorest health suffered the most, according to the research, which analysed data from more than 7,000 adults.
About 20 per cent of people with two or more existing medical conditions had an operation or other form of treatment cancelled.
Despite the difficulty in securing appointments, diagnoses for conditions including arthritis, chronic lung disease and diabetes all increased from pre-pandemic levels. “Fewer opportunities for physical activity and social interaction may have played a part,” said Paola Zaninotto, UCL academic and lead author of the study.
At the same time, far fewer cases of dementia were diagnosed. About 3.6 adults per 1,000 were diagnosed with dementia in November and December 2020 compared with 9.1 per 1,000 before the pandemic.
As well as barriers to accessing healthcare, Zaninotto said, this may be because social isolation meant “cognitive decline went unnoticed” by friends and relatives.