Impact of the first COVID-19 outbreak on mental health service utilisation at a Dutch mental health centre: retrospective observational study

M.W. Chow*, E.A. Noorthoorn, A.I. Wierdsma, M. van der Horst, N. de Boer, S. Guloksuz, J.J. Luykx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Previous studies into mental health service utilisation during the COVID-19 pandemic are limited to a few countries or specific type of service. In addition, data on changes in telepsychiatry are currently lacking. Aims We aimed to investigate whether the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with changes in mental health service utilisation, including telepsychiatry, and how these changes were distributed among patients with mental illness during the first COVID-19 outbreak. Method This retrospective study obtained routinely assessed healthcare data from a large Dutch mental healthcare institute. Data from the second quarter of 2020 (the first COVID-19 outbreak period) were compared with the pre-pandemic period between January 2018 and March 2020. Time-series analyses were performed with the quasi-Poisson generalised linear model, to examine the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown and the overall trend of mental health service utilisation per communication modality and diagnostic category. Results We analysed 204 808 care contacts of 28 038 patients. The overall number of care contacts in the second quarter of 2020 remained the same as in the previous 2 years, because the number of video consultations significantly increased (B = 2.17, P = 0.488 x 10(-3)) as the number of face-to-face out-patient contacts significantly decreased (B = -0.98, P = 0.011). This was true for all different diagnostic categories, although this change was less pronounced in patients with psychotic disorders. Conclusions Diminished face-to-face out-patient contacts were well-compensated by the substantial increase of video consultations during the first COVID-19 outbreak in The Netherlands. This increase was less pronounced for psychotic disorders. Further research should elucidate the need for disorder-specific digital mental healthcare delivery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number213
Number of pages7
JournalBjpsych open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2021


  • Psychotic disorders
  • mental health service utilisation
  • COVID-19
  • telepsychiatry
  • face-to-face out-patient contact

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