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Healthcare contacts with self-harm during COVID-19: An e-cohort whole-population-based study using individual-level linked routine electronic health records in Wales, UK, 2016—March 2021
PLOS ONE, Volume: 17, Issue: 4, Start page: e0266967
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Reduced rates of help seeking by those who self-harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported. ObjectivesTo understand changes in healthcare service contacts for self-harm during the COVID-19 pandemic across primary, emergency and secondary care.MethodsThis retrospective cohort study used r...
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Reduced rates of help seeking by those who self-harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported. ObjectivesTo understand changes in healthcare service contacts for self-harm during the COVID-19 pandemic across primary, emergency and secondary care.MethodsThis retrospective cohort study used routine electronic healthcare data for Wales, United Kingdom, from 2016 to March 14, 2021. Population-based data from primary care, emergency departments and hospital admissions were linked at individual-level. All Welsh residents aged ≥10 years over the study period were included in the study. Primary, emergency and secondary care contacts with self-harm at any time between 2016 and March 14, 2021 were identified. Outcomes were counts, incidence, prevalence and proportion of self-harm contacts relative to all contacts in each and all settings, as well as the proportion of people contacting one or more settings with self-harm. Weekly trends were modelled using generalised estimated equations, with differences between 2020 (to March 2021) and comparison years 2016-2018 (to March 2017-2019) quantified using difference in differences, from which mean rate of odds ratios (μROR) across years was reported.ResultsThe study included 3,552,210 individuals over the study period. Self-harm contacts reduced across services in March and December 2020 compared to previous years. Primary care contacts with self-harm reduced disproportionately compared to non-self-harm contacts (μROR=0.7, p<0.05), while their proportion increased in emergency departments during April 2020 (μROR=1.3, p<0.05 in 2/3 comparison years) and hospital admissions during April-May 2020 (μROR=1.2, p<0.05 in 2/3 comparison years). Despite this, those who self-harmed in April 2020 were more likely to be seen in primary care than other settings compared to previous years (μROR=1.2, p<0.05). A lower proportion of those with self-harm contacts in emergency departments were subsequently admitted to hospital in December 2020 compared to previous years (μROR=0.5, p<0.05).ConclusionsThese findings suggest that those who self-harmed during the COVID-19 pandemic may have been less likely to seek help, and those who did so faced more stringent criteria for admission. Communications encouraging those who self-harm to seek help during pandemics may be beneficial. However, this needs to be supported by maintained provision of mental health services.
This study makes use of anonymized data held in the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. We would also like to acknowledge all data providers who make anonymized data available for research. We wish to acknowledge the collaborative partnership that enabled acquisition and access to the de-identified data, which led to this output. The collaboration was led by the Swansea University Health Data Research UK team under the direction of the Welsh Government Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) and includes the following groups and organizations: the SAIL Databank, Administrative Data Research (ADR) Wales, Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW), Public Health Wales, NHS Shared Services Partnership (NWSSP) and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST). All research conducted has been completed under the permission and approval of the SAIL independent Information Governance Review Panel (IGRP) project number 0911.
Healthcare, COVID-19, Wales
Swansea University Medical School
WT_/Wellcome Trust/United Kingdom, MR/V028367/1/MRC_/Medical Research Council/United Kingdom, CSO_/Chief Scientist Office/United Kingdom, BHF_/British Heart Foundation/United Kingdom