More than 50,000 extra deaths have taken place in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, new analysis shows.
Extra deaths – known as “excess deaths” – are the number of deaths above the average for the corresponding period in the non-pandemic years of 2015-19.
A total of 50,810 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales were registered between March 7 2020 and February 26 2021, according to an analysis by the PA news agency of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Of this number, just 7,056 – or 14% – were deaths directly involving Covid-19.
The figures show that there are still many more people than normal who are dying in their own homes.
Deaths in private homes have been consistently well above the 2015-19 average since April 2020.
Even during the summer and early autumn of 2020, when few lockdown restrictions were in place across the country, excess deaths in private homes remained above average by between 700 and 900 a week.
Since the start of 2021, when a full lockdown was reintroduced in both England and Wales, this number has climbed to around 1,200 to 1,300 a week.
Responding to the findings, Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “Death is a tricky and sensitive subject to cover, and one aspect of that is where people die, and whether that is also their preferred choice of location to die.
“During the pandemic, there may be an element where those who are at end of life are reluctant to be admitted to hospital or even a hospice for fear of dying alone. In these circumstances, perhaps they are preferring for their last moments to be at home where family and friends can visit more freely.
“There may be similar thinking for people who would otherwise have gone into nursing or residential care too, preferring to remain in their homes or other settings where they can see their family more freely.”
Analysis published last year by the ONS found that deaths in private homes in England for males from heart disease, from the start of the coronavirus pandemic through to early September, were 26% higher than the five-year average, while prostate cancer deaths had increased 53%.
For women, deaths in private homes from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had increased 75%, while deaths from breast cancer were up 47%.
Sam Royston, director of policy and research at Marie Curie, said the latest figures showed there have been 40% more deaths at home compared with 2015-2019 levels.
“These increasing deaths are not reflected by extra support, resources or money for these people and the loved ones looking after them,” he said.
“Much deserved attention has been given to protect hospitals and care homes throughout the pandemic, but we fear this may have led to a silent crisis of people dying without support behind closed doors.
“It is critical that we ensure that those who die at home have all of the support and assistance they need for the best possible death. There is an opportunity for government to learn from the pandemic, invest in community support in our health and social care system and ensure that dying people are not missing out on the support they need.”