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 epidemic was greater in the UK than in any EU country.
In the UK, hip replacement operations fell by 46% in 2020, compared to just 7% in Germany and 12% in France. The number of knee operations in the UK fell 68%, compared to just 3% in Finland and an average of 24% in the EU.
The figures, from a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Commission, come as the government struggles to clear the rising elective care backlog, which topped 7 million people in September.
The health secretary, Steve Barclay, announced last month a 1.5 bn plan for 50 new elective surgery hubs in hospitals, but nursing strikes now threaten new delays.
The EU-wide analysis of the impact of the flu epidemic on health systems across the continent shows that 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 wide-ranging assessment found that Covid 19 resulted in 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 1.4 million deaths from Covid, and there had been a direct or indirect result of the disease in 27 EU countries, with nine out of 10 deaths among people over the age of 60.
The NHS prioritised cancer treatment throughout the epidemic when tens of thousands of health workers had to isolate as a result of Covid and wards were turned over to treating the disease.
A spokesman for NHS England said it was wrong to suggest that the NHS shut down services during the epidemic. Since March 2020, over 780,000 people in England have started treatment for cancer 94% within a month. During the epidemic, breast and cervical cancer screening was around a fifth higher than the EU average, and waiting times for hip and knee replacements in the UK were the third lowest.
More people than ever before are being checked for cancer because of the NHS' efforts to encourage people to get checked in September and more people than ever before, thanks to our biggest ever national cancer awareness campaign and record numbers of GP appointments. The OECD study highlighted the impact of the pandemic on young people's mental health. 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 less time engaging in physical activity and had worsening eating habits, with indications of a rise in child overweight and obesity in some countries.