As many as 7,500 people are feared to have died after contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) in care homes, according to a leading industry body.
Care England, which represents independent care firms, said it had collected data which suggested fatalities are far higher than those released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS recorded 217 care home deaths from the virus until 3 April.
Care England’s chief executive Martin Green told the Telegraph:
If we look at some of the death rates since 1 April and compare them with previous years’ rates, we estimate a figure of about 7,500 people may have died as a result of Covid-19.
But Green added that “without testing, it was very difficult to give an absolute figure” on care home deaths.
Red tape causes delays
Currently, care home deaths aren’t listed every day. There have been lags in reported figures for several weeks because of having to wait for death certificates, which must be registered and processed.
Earlier this week, head of Public Health England (PHE) Yvonne Doyle said agencies were working towards producing “much more rapid data, preferably on a daily basis”.
PHE said there were 3,084 care homes with coronavirus outbreaks in England as of 15 April.
Deaths in care homes going “under the radar”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) only began including data on coronavirus deaths in care homes from 16 April, as confirmed by health secretary Matt Hancock. He told the Health and Social Care Committee on 17 April:
I’m concerned about this as well; I asked CQC to make sure that we record the data in care homes specifically, of those who are residents of care homes, whether they die in hospital or in the care home, and they started collecting that data yesterday and it will be published very shortly.
Hancock didn’t specify precisely when, or how often, this data will be published. The pledge comes after experts called for care home deaths to be included in the daily tally amid fears they’re going “under the radar”.
The Department of Health statement added:
As a Government, we have a duty to report verified information.
It is important that we have the best possible reliable data to know how many deaths there are, wherever they occur.
In an important step forward, ONS are now providing a breakdown of deaths by place of occurrence.
We are currently working with CQC and other organisations to understand how to best to provide up to date information about deaths in care homes and elsewhere.
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