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OBJECTIVES: To investigate changes in daily mental health (MH) service use and mortality in response to the introduction and the lifting of the COVID-19 'lockdown' policy in Spring 2020. DESIGN: A regression discontinuity in time (RDiT) analysis of daily service-level activity. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Mental healthcare data were extracted from 10 UK providers. OUTCOME MEASURES: Daily (weekly for one site) deaths from all causes, referrals and discharges, inpatient care (admissions, discharges, caseloads) and community services (face-to-face (f2f)/non-f2f contacts, caseloads): Adult, older adult and child/adolescent mental health; early intervention in psychosis; home treatment teams and liaison/Accident and Emergency (A&E). Data were extracted from 1 Jan 2019 to 31 May 2020 for all sites, supplemented to 31 July 2020 for four sites. Changes around the commencement and lifting of COVID-19 'lockdown' policy (23 March and 10 May, respectively) were estimated using a RDiT design with a difference-in-difference approach generating incidence rate ratios (IRRs), meta-analysed across sites. RESULTS: Pooled estimates for the lockdown transition showed increased daily deaths (IRR 2.31, 95% CI 1.86 to 2.87), reduced referrals (IRR 0.62, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.70) and reduced inpatient admissions (IRR 0.75, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.83) and caseloads (IRR 0.85, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.91) compared with the pre lockdown period. All community services saw shifts from f2f to non-f2f contacts, but varied in caseload changes. Lift of lockdown was associated with reduced deaths (IRR 0.42, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.66), increased referrals (IRR 1.36, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.60) and increased inpatient admissions (IRR 1.21, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.42) and caseloads (IRR 1.06, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.12) compared with the lockdown period. Site-wide activity, inpatient care and community services did not return to pre lockdown levels after lift of lockdown, while number of deaths did. Between-site heterogeneity most often indicated variation in size rather than direction of effect. CONCLUSIONS: MH service delivery underwent sizeable changes during the first national lockdown, with as-yet unknown and unevaluated consequences.

Original publication

DOI

10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049721

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMJ Open

Publication Date

26/05/2021

Volume

11

Keywords

COVID-19, adult psychiatry, mental health, old age psychiatry, organisation of health services, Adolescent, Aged, COVID-19, Child, Communicable Disease Control, Humans, Mental Health Services, Policy, SARS-CoV-2, United Kingdom