Endometriosis: 14-year high for emergency admissions during Covid as cancelled appointments ‘leave women in agony’

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Thousands of women are admitted to hospital with endometriosis each year

Thousands fewer women were admitted to hospital due to endometriosis last year, but there was a sharp rise in the number of emergency admissions.

A specialist endometriosis charity has warned that women are being left in agony because of cancelled appointments and surgeries.

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Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It can affect women of any age, with many people across the country living with the long-term condition, which can have a significant impact on day-to-day life.

Each year, thousands of women are admitted to hospital with the condition, but the Covid pandemic has seen a reduction in general hospital admissions - but a sharp rise in emergency cases.

Data from NHS Digital shows that in the year 2020/21, the number of finished admission episodes (FAE), which is the first period of admitted patient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider, was 13,709.

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This was a sharp drop from the previous two years, which saw 21,888 admissions in 2019/20 and 22,298 in 2018/19.

However, of the 13,709 admissions in 2020/21, 3,019 (22%) were admitted to hospital on an emergency basis – a 14-year high.

This compares to the 2,905 (13.3%) emergency admissions in 2019/20 and the 2,825 (12.7%) emergency admissions in 2018/19.

Hospital admissions for endometriosis have increased year-on-year from 2007/08 - except from the drop experienced last year - with emergency admissions also increasing each year.

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Of the 16,351 hospital admissions in 2007/08, there were 1,405 (8.6%) emergency admissions.


‘No option but to go to A&E’

Emma Cox, chief executive officer of Endometriosis UK, said the charity’s own research has shown that since the Covid pandemic began many NHS appointments and surgeries for endometriosis have been cancelled or postponed.

In some cases, people have been waiting for more than 18 months for a new appointment.

Ms Cox said: “During this time, we know that some people have tried to access care and been unable, while others have been reticent to seek help during this time as not wishing to burden the NHS.

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“However, some have no choice and cannot wait - endometriosis can cause severe debilitating pain for some, leaving them no option but to go to A&E.

Melissa, 31, from the South of England, now has an official endometriosis diagnosis, but she experienced a wait in getting diagnosed after starting with pain in December 2019, and was told that Covid was the “biggest cause” of the patient backlog.

At times, Melissa’s “excruciating pain” was so bad she ended up in A&E on more than one occasion.

Ms Cox said that over time the disease may progress and symptoms worsen, with the impact on an individual’s life becoming more severe.

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“As the NHS works through its backlogs, it is vitally important that those with the most severe cases of endometriosis are prioritised appropriately and not left waiting any longer than necessary for appointments, treatment or surgery,” she added.

NHS England has been contacted for a comment and this article will be updated with the response.

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