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The effect of the 2020 pandemic, and of the national measures introduced to control it, is not yet fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate how different types of primary care data can help quantify the effect of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis on mental health. A retrospective cohort study investigated changes in weekly counts of mental health consultations and prescriptions. The data were extracted from one the UK's largest primary care databases between January 1st 2015 and October 31st 2020 (end of follow-up). The 2020 trends were compared to the 2015-19 average with 95% confidence intervals using longitudinal plots and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). A total number of 504 practices (7,057,447 patients) contributed data. During the period of national restrictions, on average, there were 31% (3957 ± 269, p < 0.001) fewer events and 6% (4878 ± 1108, p < 0.001) more prescriptions per week as compared to the 2015-19 average. The number of events was recovering, increasing by 75 (± 29, p = 0.012) per week. Prescriptions returned to the 2015-19 levels by the end of the study (p = 0.854). The significant reduction in the number of consultations represents part of the crisis. Future service planning and quality improvements are needed to reduce the negative effect on health and healthcare.

Original publication




Journal article


Stud Health Technol Inform

Publication Date





759 - 763


COVID-19, Mental health, lockdown, pandemic, real-world evidence, COVID-19, Humans, Mental Health, Prescriptions, Primary Health Care, Referral and Consultation, Retrospective Studies, SARS-CoV-2