Care Home Deaths
Government information about the true number of care home deaths due to Covid-19 is out of step with recent figures estimated by leading names in the care sector. As of 3rd April 2020 the government confirmed the number of deaths from Coronavirus in care homes at 217. In stark contrast to this, in recent days both the National Care Forum (NCF), Care England and LaingBuisson have produced data that suggests figures are considerably higher.
National Care Forum announce new data on Care Home Deaths
On Saturday 18th April NCF published data suggesting 4,040 people may have died of the illness within UK residential and nursing services before 13th April. It added that once the details of those who had been transferred to hospital were factored into that data, the figure could rise to 7,300. The National Care Forum who represent independent not-for-profit adult social care providers in the UK, have called for the government to place a ‘ring of steel’ around care homes to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
Care England estimate
Care England, Britain’s largest representative organisation for Care Homes, have estimated from looking at the death rates from 1st April and then comparing them with 2019’s death rates, the number of those in care homes losing their lives to Coronavirus could be as many as 7,500. This is an estimate. ‘Without testing it makes it very difficult to give an absolute figure,’ said Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England.
Separate and additional research carried out by LaingBuisson across eleven major care providers, enabled them to extrapolate from survey figures a death rate from coronavirus in residential care settings of 5,300. You can read the breakdown of the figures here.
And the real story is?
The whole picture is undoubtedly confused, constantly in flux and won’t be known for some time.
The disparity has much to do with how data is gathered and collated. Care home deaths are recorded by the Office of National Statistics and these are only reported fortnightly. This explains the government’s recent figures only going up to 3rd April. Deceased data announced in the daily government news briefings relates to hospital deaths alone – this information is able to be collated more swiftly and is kept separate from other figures to allow medical authorities to track the progress of measures to contain the virus within the hospital setting. The time-lag between deaths occurring in care homes and being officially registered, partially explains some of the confusion. Additionally, there will be questions over whether people die of Covid-19, or other conditions. With a lack of widespread testing for the virus in care home communities, without a definitive diagnosis, death certificates are unlikely to confirm this.
This is a time of crisis, so there will be confusion. There will be time lags in data being updated. But there must also be a commitment to the recognition that care home death figures are to be counted transparently and equally. Anything else would be an abandonment of our duty to the vulnerable people who sadly continue to die of this cruel virus in residential homes, despite the selfless dedication of compassionate care teams. Earlier in this crisis a warning was sounded by Caroline Abrahams, Director of charity, Age UK, where she exclaimed that government figures ‘are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter.’
When all this shakes out, and analysis of the figures is undertaken, in order to learn and improve we need to be making assessments and decisions based upon accurate data sets. And that includes all the deaths in care homes, too. Every sad and single death.