Visits to A&E in Essex have continued to fall, with the numbers attending the newly merged Mid and South Essex NHS hospitals down by around half compared to last year.
The stark drop has increased concerns that people are not getting the treatment they need after suffering potentially life-threatening conditions such has strokes and heart attacks.
It has also sparked warnings of a surge in demand for routine care in the weeks and months ahead.
There were 15,489 attendances at Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals in April 2020 – a 47 per cent drop compared to the 29,321 in April 2019.
Total national A&E visits during April were down by 57 per cent on last year as just 916,581 people attended – the lowest figure since records began in 2010.
That compares to an average monthly 2.1million A&E attendances before the pandemic.
British Medical Association emergency medicine lead and consultants committee deputy chairman, Dr Simon Walsh, said: “As (the) figures show, we are seeing a substantial drop in the numbers of patients coming to emergency departments – the impact of Covid-19 on people seeking care couldn’t be clearer.
“Whilst many healthcare staff continue to deal with the pandemic and people play their part in helping reduce the spread of infection, doctors are clear that the emergency care system remains in place and those who do genuinely need emergency care must come forward.
“In a recent BMA survey, four in ten doctors said the long-term impact on patient clinical demand was their greatest worry. Today’s figures illustrate those fears all too well, with longer waits for patients being referred by consultants for elective care.
“There will be many patients understandably distressed at not knowing when they will get the treatment they need, so getting care and treatment to those patients who badly need it at this time must be an absolute priority going forward.
“GPs and hospitals must be given the resources they need to cope with what will undoubtedly be a surge in demand for routine care in the weeks and months ahead.”