Steep rise in care home deaths

Care home deaths underscore urgent need for PPE in sector

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The real death toll figure from coronavirus in the UK could be far higher than official figures suggest, as care home deaths in England and Wales have more than quadrupled in the last week.

By April 10, more than 1,000 people died in care homes after contracting coronavirus – up from just over 200 in the week previous, with the number of people dying in their own homes from the virus also trebling to 466 over the same time period.

Care home bosses have warned that they’ll need an urgent influx of doctors and nurses into care homes to combat the virus. Care UK, which oversees 122 care homes in England and Scotland, said their network of homes had experienced a 65 per cent increase in deaths in four days alone with about 70 per cent of their care homes affected by the coronavirus.

Another group of care homes, Four Seasons Health Care, reported a 60 per cent spike in deaths in the last six days, with almost two-thirds of its homes stricken by the virus.

The Nursing Times highlighted this week that as coronavirus deaths in care homes have spiked, so too have deaths from all causes. In the week to April 10, the number of deaths in social care settings from all causes doubled to 4,927.

Critics of the government’s official daily death toll figures have highlighted that these only include deaths in hospital and could obscure the real picture when care home and private home deaths are included.

NHS Confederations chief executive Niall Dickson called the rise in care home deaths “deeply alarming”.

“This could be the second front in the battle against Covid-19 and we need to do everything we can to support the care sector with the right PPE, training and support in infection control and adequate funding,” he said.

Dickson also speculated on the rise in overall deaths from all causes in care homes.

“It may be that coronavirus cases that are going undetected or it may be that other factors related to the lockdown and outbreak are having an impact, such as people not seeking treatment for other conditions,” he said.

Research from the London School of Economics (LSE) has found that if the UK follows other countries’ coronavirus trends, deaths in care homes could eventually account for half of all coronavirus-related deaths.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said that the steep rise in care home deaths meant more needed to be done urgently to protect care workers.

“The skyrocketing numbers of deaths in care homes is alarming and underscores the need for care workers to be urgently provided with the protective kit they so desperately need,” he said.

“They are working flat out caring for the elderly who are more susceptible to dying from Covid-19.The safety of both care patients and staff must be the highest priority and when it comes to PPE provision there must be parity between social care and NHS workers. No one – no matter which setting they work in – should be forced to risk their health or their lives carrying out their work.”

“Unite has over 100,000 members in the health and social care services and we will not rest until we ensure that all health and social care workers are secure in their individual roles in keeping us all safe and well – we are campaigning for that goal 24/7,” he added.

“If these objectives are not met and NHS and social care staff continue not to be protected, reluctantly they could legitimately and lawfully decline to put themselves in further danger and risk of injury at work. Unite will defend NHS and social care staff.”

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