New data has shown that hip fracture and stroke patients were assessed quicker on arrival to hospital during the first wave of Covid-19 than in the pre-pandemic period.
Hospitals not only maintained their level of care during the coronavirus pandemic, in some areas the level of care improved.
During the first wave of Covid-19 last year, 70% of stroke cases were seen by a doctor within one hour of arrival to hospital. This is compared to 60% before the pandemic.
According to data from the Irish National Audit of Stroke (INAS), almost half of cases with stroke underwent a CT scan within an hour of arrival to hospital during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the number of hip fracture cases who were admitted to an orthopaedic ward within four hours increased 9% to 36% in the period from March to August 2020.
Patients suffering hip fractures also spent less time in hospital during the first six months of the pandemic with the average person staying 14 days rather than 18.5 days previously.
More patients were also able to be discharged directly home with 30% returning straight home between March and August last year, data from the Irish Hip Fracture Database (IHFD) has shown.
Kenneth Mealy, chair of the National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA), said, "The improvements in assessment times and patient length of stay during Covid-19 need to be translated across the system once the pandemic has subsided."
He added that the data collected in the report has real potential to be used to transform the healthcare system for the better into the future.
While many improvements have been identified in the care received by hip fracture and stroke patients during the first six month of the pandemic, there were also negative impacts of Covid.
Pre-pandemic, 83% of stroke cases were assessed by a clinical nurse specialist but this figure fell to 73% during the first wave. However, the level of assessment began to return to normal levels in May 2020.
Fewer hip fracture patients had their cases reviewed by a geriatrician, receiving a bone health assessment and a specialist fall assessment. Data has shown that care remained at a reduced level during the pandemic.
Mr Mealy said some measures of care did decline in particular during April 2020.
"Further work is required to understand the mechanisms leading to and implications of these changes, both positive and negative.” The data obtained by the audit has played an essential role in monitoring the quality of care provided to patients throughout the pandemic, said Mr Mealy.
He added that the ICU-Bed Information System, established and managed by NOCA early in the pandemic, has played a crucial role in planning and managing the care of ICU patients.