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Covid-19 and the Healthcare System: Long-Term Implications for Patients and Providers

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

PTSD in healthcare teams: the importance of resilience. How Covid has affected the health care system

It's no secret how valuable the entire health care system has been during the recent pandemic. Nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers across the globe worked tirelessly to treat Covid 19 patients every day.

But what have been the short and long-term effects of Covid 19 on the healthcare system?

The shock was felt across many care areas and people's lives, from finance and socializing to overall health.

Long before the pandemic, the healthcare system faced budget cuts and staff shortages. It's no wonder the effects of Covid dramatically impacted both during and after the pandemic.

Let's take a look at the main effects in more detail.

Impacts of COVID-19

Firstly the impact of Covid itself, the rising death toll, and the effects of serious illness. The media reported the virus was more severe for the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, and those in deprived areas.

The initial concern was freeing enough hospital beds for the inevitable influx of Covid patients. Meaning some patients may have been discharged earlier than usual.

Impact on acute care

Another significant impact of Covid 19 was the postponement of planned treatments for minor and major conditions and surgeries and many online services.

During this time, multiple guidance policies were published about how best to care for Covid 19 patients, making the job more stressful every day.

The number of people attending emergency departments dropped at the pandemic's beginning. There were concerns that urgent conditions such as stroke and heart attacks were not timely treated.

Cancer patients also suffered; even though it was advised that these treatments must continue, some areas saw delays in urgent cancer surgeries and chemotherapy as nurses were deployed elsewhere.

Impact on GP and family doctors

People needing less urgent care were also impacted during the pandemic as family doctors could not refer patients to the hospital for further medical testing.

Family doctors also found themselves overnight having to work remotely, taking telephone and video calls from patients and only seeing the most urgent patients face-to-face. This meant some illnesses were left untreated for longer as they were not seen in person until they worsened.

Impact of lockdown and social distancing

There have been many negative impacts from lockdowns; these include loss of income and food insecurity which has contributed to a decline in mental and physical health in many people.

Also, the social decline from prolonged lockdowns and social distancing is clearly evidenced in the rising mental health problems the healthcare system is still seeing two years on.

Children's mental health has also been impacted by multiple school closures, online learning, and a lack of physical socializing with their peers.

Impact on social care

Many areas of the health system entered the pandemic with minimal available beds and budget cuts. A lot of the information that was shared with the public around Covid 19 involved slowing down the spread of the virus to help the healthcare system recover.

Stress levels within the healthcare system had been steadily rising pre-pandemic, a situation only made worse by the virus. Staff turnover was high, with many workers on zero-hour contracts and offering no job stability.

The aftereffects of such stress on individuals working on the front line may take years to unpick.

Are you a nurse feeling overwhelmed and burnt out? Get practical tips and strategies to boost your mental wellness by listening to the Project ReNew Podcast.


  1. What do you remember from the first wave of the pandemic?

  2. Could you see the impact Covid was having on the healthcare system at the time?

  3. What do you think could have been improved during the pandemic?



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