Care Homes Hit by 'Excess Deaths' from Coronavirus
Wednesday, 27th May 2020
About a quarter of known coronavirus deaths in Great Britain have happened in care homes.
According the Office for National Statistics (ONS) up to the 1st May 2020 there had been 8,312 deaths in care homes in England and Wales. This represents a quarter of all deaths associated with the virus to that date. The number further increases to 12,526 when care home residents who died outside care homes - such as in hospital - are included.
In Scotland, 1,438 people had died in care homes - or 45% of all deaths.
Northern Ireland currently does not produce similar breakdowns.
The ONS statistics provide the most detailed breakdown of deaths in England and Wales, but because of the challenge of collecting accurate data from more than 15,000 care homes across the UK, they are on a two-week lag.
However, care homes have been hit by an alarming increase in "excess deaths" according to NHS officials.
While on average April sees about 8,400 deaths in care homes - this year there have been 26,563 deaths in England and Wales, so about 18,000 more than expected.
With only 8,000 of these attributed to coronavirus on death certificates, questions have been raised about what has contributed to the other 10,000 deaths.
According to NHS guidance care homes are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of any infectious disease for three main reasons:
• Infections are able to spread quickly because of close contact between residents.
• Carers can unintentionally spread the infection where there isn't enough personal protective equipment (PPE) being used very regularly
• Residents are often elderly and have other underlying health conditions
More than one in three deaths from coronavirus in Great Britain have been people aged over 85, despite representing just over 2% of the population. However, at least 60% of the elderly care home population is aged 85 and over.
The vulnerability of care home residents to the Covid-19 virus is alarming to the care home owners and to the government who have announced this week a £3.6 billion package of funding to local authorities who purchase beds in private care homes. The money is expected to be spent on PPE, additional staff recruitment and staff training to enable care homes to cope better with the pandemic.