Spike in deaths led to fears of care homes crisis

By Heather Jameson | 14 April 2020

A huge spike in the number of UK deaths has led to fears the pandemic is rife in care homes.

The latest figures, released by the Office of National Statistics, show there were more than 16,000 deaths that week, 6,000 more than expected for this time of year.

Nick Stripe, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS said: ‘The 16,387 deaths that were registered in England and Wales during the week ending 3 April is the highest weekly total since we started compiling weekly deaths data in 2005.’

Coronavirus was mentioned on 3,475 death certificates during the week, but the figures still leave a massive shortfall, which has led to speculation the deaths are being under-reported.

The care industry has collectively demanded more action from health secretary Matt Hancock, and has called for a daily update on care home deaths, in the same way hospital deaths are announced by the Government.

Echoing the calls, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘If we are to understand the true scale of the spread, the number of deaths in care homes should be released daily in the same way as they are for hospital deaths.

‘The spread in care homes has largely gone under the radar because the figures are not released in the same way as the daily statistics for deaths in hospitals.
‘It cannot be said often enough the NHS and social care are interdependent.

His comments come as the Government confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at more than 2,000 care homes in England.

Care England, which represents care providers, has estimated there have been nearly 1,000 deaths in homes.

Responding  to the ONS figures, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said each death was a tragedy.

He said: ‘These figures begin to shine a light on the impact of coronavirus in care settings and on older and disabled people who use social care services.

‘They are another stark reminder of the severe pressures facing care providers and the desperate need to ensure key issues, such as personal protective equipment, testing and safe discharge from hospital are urgently prioritised.’

Care providers have faced ongoing difficulties in accessing personal protective equipment (PPE). ‘Consistent and reliable supplies of PPE are vital to protect care workers and those that they care for. It is also vital that care homes can access support from community and primary healthcare professionals,’ Cllr Hudspeth said.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis described the situation in care homes as a ‘national scandal’. He said: ‘Elderly and vulnerable residents face a death sentence because staff lack personal protective equipment.’

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