NHS´s Annual Healthcare Access Report presents the 2020 results

The results presented in the NHS´s Annual Healthcare Report, show the path taken so as to build a more resilient National Health Service (NHS), in a year marked by the arrival of COVID-19, which forced the reorganization of services and the implementation of new procedures that would allow an adequate response to healthcare provision.

In 2020, the number of traditional face-to-face appointments in Primary HealthCare decreased by 38.5 per cent, when compared with the previous year. However, the use of new technologies was essential to overcome the constraints related to the pandemic: phone and virtual consultations registered an incredible increase over 100 per cent. Overall, more than 32.5 million medical consultations were carried out, an increase of 3.1 per cent compared to 2019, and more than 16.5 million nursing consultations.

As to users with an assigned family GP, in 2020, we reached 91.6 percent of coverage. Simultaneously, 86.3 per cent of registered users had a family nurse, representing a rise of 0.7 per cent over 2019. Last year, 17 new Family Health Units and 2 Community Care Units have opened.

When the pandemic knocked on our doors, considering the exceptional challenge that lied ahead, hospitals managed to ensure the response to all its inpatients, both on infirmaries and intensive care units. This took a remarkable work that involved preparation, new procedures and sometimes, new clinical pathways in order to guarantee the best possible safety conditions to patients, professionals and remaining hospital community.

Thus, despite the decrease of hospital care activity, namely in medical appointments (-10.4 per cent), surgeries (-17.8 per cent) and emergency episodes (-29.1 per cent), 2021 has already shown some improvement, as demonstrated by the results of the first semester, when compared to the same period of the previous year, with a positive progress on the volume of healthcare provided (see here).

Nonetheless the pandemic situation, in 2020, surgeries in the oncology sector maintained the activity registered in 2018 and 2019, demonstrating a strong resilience and capability in this particular area.

Regarding hospitalizations with a COVID-19 diagnosis, there were 28.167 episodes, with an average hospital stay of 10.2 days, with the older population as the most affected by the virus.

As to the long-term care, it´s worth mentioning the 5 per cent growth in the number of available hospital beds compared to 2019, summing a total of 9.468, as well as the intense work made in prioritizing the allocation of patients coming from NHS´s hospitals (15.572 patients directly placed in the National Network of Long-Term Integrated Care).

Within the scope of priority health programs, specifically breast cancer screenings, cervical, colon and rectum screenings, the positive results recorded in the past years were also affected by the pandemic. Nevertheless, it´s already noticeable the improvement achieved in the first semester of 2021, namely in the number of screenings.

Also noteworthy are the measures adopted by the Ministry of Health, to provide the NHS with all possible resources, both human and material, essential to control and fight COVID-19. Among them, are the increase in testing capacity, the expansion of the number of intensive care beds, the reinforcement of human resources, as well as the implementation of a plan dedicated to COVID-19 vaccination. The implementation of these measures allowed to respond to the patients needs when the country was facing this epidemiological situation.

This report, published annually, presents all national health activity carried out in 2020, as well as the performance of the NHS´s establishments regarding healthcare provision.

Published on 22/9/2021

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