The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes and other settings will be published daily as well as the hospital death toll, the health secretary said.
Matt Hancock said that, in an effort to “bring as much transparency as possible” to the death figures, “from tomorrow we will be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospital each day, but the number of deaths in care homes and the community too”.
“This will supplement the ONS [Office for National Statistics] and CQC [Care Quality Commission] weekly publication and all add to our understanding of how this virus is spreading day by day, and it will help inform the judgments that we make as we work to keep people safe,” he said.
Health organisations have been calling for the numbers outside hospitals to be published every day, while experts on Tuesday said they could not say the peak in care homes has been reached yet.
More than 6,500 deaths involving coronavirus have occurred in England and Wales outside of hospital, according to weekly figures released by the ONS earlier on Tuesday.
Care homes notified the CQC of 4,343 deaths of residents in homes between 10 and 24 April 10 and in England.
More than half of the notifications, 2,178, were made in the last five days of that period.
It is the first time the CQC death notifications for suspected or confirmed Covid-19 in care homes have been published.
Care providers said it is clear the “epicentre of this crisis is in care homes” and that the sector is “sadly the most affected area of society in terms of deaths from Covid-19”.
Prior to 10 April, there were 1,000 deaths registered in care homes, Nick Stripe, head of health analysis, told the BBC.
Separately, the ONS said there were 1,220 deaths which occurred outside hospital, excluding care home deaths, in England and Wales up to 17 April.
– 883 took place in private homes
– 190 in hospices
– 61 in other communal establishments
– 86 elsewhere
The ONS and CQC figures added together make a total of 6,563 deaths outside hospital.
And overall, some 24,243 deaths involving coronavirus have now been registered across the UK, analysis by the PA news agency shows.
Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS, told the BBC: “There could be deaths that are happening in care homes that would ordinarily have been transferred to hospitals.
“So those care pathways might be being disrupted to some degree.
“It could also be that perhaps care home residents are getting what ostensibly appears like milder symptoms of Covid… but perhaps Covid which is acting in strange ways in some cases could be affecting their underlying health conditions.
“So the evidence of Covid is less obvious but it might be affecting those underlying conditions and they might be dying of those.”
The ONS’s weekly release also showed the total number of deaths involving Covid-19 in England up to 17 April (and which were registered up to 25 April), was 39% higher than the equivalent NHS total.
The ONS figures show there were 21,284 deaths involving Covid-19 over that period, compared with 15,293 deaths in hospitals in England for the same period, reported by NHS England.
This is because the ONS figures include all mentions of Covid-19 on a death certificate, including suspected Covid-19, as well as deaths in the community.
The NHS figures only include deaths in hospitals where a patient has been tested for Covid-19.
Downing Street insisted it had acted to prevent the spread of coronavirus within care homes in the early stages of the pandemic.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We set out a strategy for care homes in the early stages of the pandemic and offered detailed advice on how to stop the spread of coronavirus within care homes and also how to stop it from getting inside care homes in the first place.
“We’ve also been providing PPE from the very early stages of the pandemic.
“The health secretary recently published an updated care home strategy.
“I think we want to do all we can to support those living and working in care homes at what we accept is an enormously difficult time.”
Overall in England and Wales, almost four in 10 deaths up to 17 April (39.2%) were coronavirus-related.
There were 22,351 provisional deaths registered in England and Wales over the seven days, 11,854 more than the five-year average.
Of these, 8,758 mentioned “novel coronavirus”.
Up to 17 April, a total of 3,096 care home deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in England and Wales, up from 1,043 the previous week.
Just over three-quarters (77.4%) of the Covid-19-related deaths up to 17 April took place in hospital with the remainder occurring in care homes, private homes and hospices.
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