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Covid-19 care home deaths far higher than official figures, study suggests

The National Care Forum estimates there have been 4,040 care home deaths linked to Covid-19.

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New data estimates more than 4,000 people have died of coronavirus-related illnesses in care homes in the UK (Yui Mok/PA)

New data estimates more than 4,000 people have died of coronavirus-related illnesses in care homes in the UK (Yui Mok/PA)

New data estimates more than 4,000 people have died of coronavirus-related illnesses in care homes in the UK (Yui Mok/PA)

A study of deaths linked to Covid-19 in care homes predicts that thousands more people have died than official figures show.

The National Care Forum (NCF), which represents not-for-profit care providers, has estimated that more than 4,000 people may have died after contracting Covid-19 across all residential and nursing homes before April 13.

This is significantly higher than the official weekly figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which recorded 217 care home deaths connected to the virus up until April 3.

The NCF collected data from 47 care homes which support more than 30,000 people across the UK, accounting for 7.4% of the care sector population.

Quite simply, so long as groups such as residents in care services are omitted from the real-time national reporting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government will surely be unable to properly plan for how to protect its people or exit this crisisVic Rayner, executive director of the NCF

It found 299 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 deaths across those specific homes in one week between April 7 to April 13, which is almost three times the number of deaths in the preceding month, when they found 102 deaths between March 6 and April 7.

When scaled up to reflect the UK’s care home population, the NCF estimated that 4,040 people may have died of a coronavirus-related illness before April 13.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF, said: “Quite simply, so long as groups such as residents in care services are omitted from the real-time national reporting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government will surely be unable to properly plan for how to protect its people or exit this crisis.”

She added: “Our current national debate on how to mitigate and exit this crisis is virtually entirely centred on the management of the peak within hospitals.

“We are overlooking how this crisis is playing out in other settings, which are there to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impact of the virus.”

She called on the Government to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes, as well as monitoring devices, testing, funding and research.

Separate analysis from Care England, which represents independent care firms, said as many as 7,500 people could have died after contracting coronavirus in care homes. The industry body compared death rates since April 1 with the previous years’ rates.

Meanwhile, a care sector leader said until testing is done it will be difficult to know the number of people who have died with Covid-19 within the care system.

When asked on Sky News show Sophy Ridge On Sunday whether the official figures reflected reality, Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said: “Until testing is done we don’t know.

“There are expected deaths that will occur in services but without testing… it’s very difficult to say where we are with the number of deaths.”

She described care homes as a “home from home” where a lot of residents and their families will be worried about the unfolding news.

“We need to be responsible about how we reflect this, of course there will be deaths… but the numbers we won’t be able to confirm until the data is analysed,” she added.

Public Health England said there were 3,084 care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks in England, as of April 15.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all care home residents and staff with symptoms of Covid-19 would be tested for the illness.

He also promised that data on residents who die with the virus will be available “very shortly”.

PA