Call for Covid-19 care home deaths to be published daily
Coronavirus-related deaths in care homes should be published daily, experts have said, as new data showed around 10% of deaths registered up to April 3 in England and Wales were outside hospitals.
A total of 406 registered deaths took place outside hospitals, according to provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics.
These include: 217 deaths registered in care homes, 33 in hospices, 136 in private homes, three in other communal establishments and 17 elsewhere, while 3,716 deaths occurred in hospitals.
Other communal establishments include places such as prisons, homeless shelters, and shared dormitories, while “elsewhere” could be anywhere not at home, for example in a car or public transport.
But the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, warned that the spread in care homes “has largely gone under the radar” due to the way data on deaths has been collected.
Including deaths that occurred up to April 3 but were registered up to April 11, the number involving Covid-19 was 6,235.
The ONS overall total for England, 5,979 deaths, is 15% higher than the total reported by NHS England for the same period (5,186 deaths in hospitals).
This is because the ONS figures include all mentions of Covid-19 on a death certificate, including suspected Covid-19, and in combination with other health conditions, as well as deaths in the community.
The NHS figures only include deaths in hospitals where a patient has been tested for Covid-19.
Niall Dickson, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: “We have consistently pointed to the immensely vulnerable position of care home residents and these figures reveal this largely hidden feature of the pandemic.
“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.
“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 calls were echoed by Labour’s Liz Kendall, shadow minister for social care, who said the increase in deaths is “extremely worrying” and that daily updates are needed “urgently” to keep residents protected.
Kate Terroni, the Care Quality Commission (CQC’s) chief inspector of adult social care, said: “We are working with ONS and Public Health England to look at how to provide a more accurate and timely picture of the impact of Covid-19 on adult social care.
“From this week, the death notifications we collect from providers will allow them to report whether the death was of a person with suspected or confirmed Covid-19.
“As well as giving a clearer picture of deaths in care settings, this will provide a regional view which allows an assessment of which areas are most impacted and may need additional support as a result.”
It has not been confirmed how often this data will be shared publicly, or by which agency.
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.”
Of the 16,387 deaths, around a fifth (21.2%) mentioned “novel coronavirus”.
The previous week, just 4.8% of all deaths registered had mentioned Covid-19.
In London, almost half (46.6%) of deaths registered in the week ending April 3 involved Covid-19, while the virus accounted for 22.1% of deaths registered in the West Midlands.
London accounted for around a third of all Covid-19-related deaths in England and Wales.
In the week ending April 3, there were no deaths registered in children aged 14 and under, the ONS said.
The highest number (1,231) and proportion of deaths (24.6% of the total) was in people aged between 75 and 84.
In each group, more men than women died.
Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the figures “clearly show the impact of Covid-19 for the first time”.
He said: “As mentioned by (chief medical officer) Chris Whitty yesterday, this weekly number will become a very important number for evaluating the impact of Covid-19 and our response, as it essentially summates all the possible effects together.”