Intern Emerg Med. 2022 Feb 24. doi: 10.1007/s11739-022-02945-7. Online ahead of print.
Uncertainties remain if changes to hospital care during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic had an adverse impact on the care-quality of non-COVID-19 patients. We examined the association of hospital length of stay (LOS) with healthcare quality indicators in patients admitted with general medical conditions (non-COVID-19). In this retrospective monocentric study at a National Health Service hospital (Surrey), data were collected from 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2021, including the pandemic from 1st March 2020. Primary admissions, in-hospital mortality, post-discharge readmission and mortality were compared between the pre-pandemic (reference group) and pandemic period, according to LOS categories. There were 10,173 (47.7% men) from the pre-pandemic and 11,019 (47.5% men) from the pandemic period; mean (SD) age 68.3 year (20.0) and 68.3 year (19.6), respectively. During the pandemic, primary admission rates for acute cardiac conditions, pulmonary embolism, cerebrovascular accident and malignancy were higher, whilst admission rates for respiratory diseases and common age-related infections, and in-hospital mortality rates were lower. Amongst 19,721 survivors, sex distribution and underlying health status did not significantly differ between admissions before the pandemic and during wave-1 and wave-2 of the pandemic. Readmission rates did not differ between pre-pandemic and pandemic groups within the LOS categories of < 7 and 7-14 days, but were lower for the pandemic group who stayed > 14 days. For patients who died within seven days of admission, in-hospital mortality rates were lower in patients admitted during the pandemic. Mortality rates within 30 days of discharge did not differ between pre-pandemic and pandemic groups, irrespective of the initial hospital LOS. Despite higher rates of admission for serious conditions during the pandemic, in-hospital mortality was lower. Discharge time was similar to that for patients admitted before the pandemic, except it was earlier during the pandemic for those who stayed > 14 days, There were no group differences in quality-care outcomes.