The UK’s coronavirus death toll has surged by 3,811 to 26,097 now that the Government has started counting people who died in care homes or their own houses – but its tally still falls thousands short of the reality.
Today is the first time the Department of Health has included people dying outside of hospitals in its daily statistics, and the backdated numbers have added thousands to the death toll, which was yesterday 21,678.
But a bigger surge had been expected. The Office for National Statistics reports that more than 6,000 people are known to have died in care homes already, and the Care Quality Commission reported 4,300 in just two weeks.
However, the Government will only include people who have tested positive for the virus in its statistics, despite rationing almost all the testing kits to hospitals for the first month of the outbreak, meaning thousands of people may have died without ever being diagnosed.
The ONS and CQC continue to put out more reliable but slower statistics which include reports of people who were suspected to have the disease but were never diagnosed and, as a result, put the number of people dying outside of hospitals significantly higher.
ONS data suggests that the real number of victims may be 55 per cent higher than the Government is letting on, putting the figure at more than 40,000 already. Records in Scotland, meanwhile, show hospital deaths now account for just 52 per cent of fatalities, suggesting the true number is 43,000. The Financial Times estimates that 47,000 people have died already.
The Department of Health’s data today, however, suggests that hospital patients still make up 83 per cent of all fatalities – something which is not borne out by any other statistics being published in the UK.
Britain today announced 765 more hospital patients have died of the coronavirus, of whom around 600 died in hospitals. NHS England announced 445 more victims, including a healthy 14-year-old, to add to 83 declared in Scotland and 73 in Wales.
It comes as the number of people known to have died in care homes is soaring and one expert from the University of Cambridge said people may now be dying at a faster rate in homes than in hospitals.
The professor, a highly regarded statistics expert and an OBE recipient, spoke of ‘massive, unprecedented spikes’ in the numbers of care home fatalities and said there was no evidence that care homes were over the worst of the outbreak, as the rest of the country is believed to be.
He told MailOnline today’s updated death toll was not high enough and the truth was ‘at least as much again’, putting the total higher than 30,000.
Government ministers, pressured on claims they haven’t done enough to help care homes, insist care was ‘not overlooked’ during a scramble to protect the NHS. Environment Secretary George Eustice said this morning ‘we have always recognised there was more vulnerability there’. He denied that more testing would have saved lives.
In other coronavirus news:
- Schools will reopen in a ‘phased approach’ meaning not all children will go back at the same time, said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. He did not say when this might begin;
- Dominic Cummings, the chief adviser to Number 10, is alleged to have ‘played more than a bystander’s role’ during his controversial attendances at meetings of the Government’s scientific advisory group, SAGE;
- A drug developed for Ebola, remdesivir, has shown promising results in an early trial on 397 severely ill COVID-19 patients, according to its manufacturer, Gilead;
- UK travel agent TUI has cancelled all holiday bookings due to take place over the next six weeks;
- Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council may have to file for bankruptcy because it has lost so much money now that tourism is not allowed under coronavirus lockdown rules;
- Midwives and social workers from abroad will be granted automatic visa renewal for at least one year so they can continue to work during the coronavirus crisis.
The Department of Health has today started compiling data on deaths which happen anywhere, as long as the person tests positive for COVID-19 before or after they die. The new record has seen 3,811 backdated fatalities added to Britain’s death toll, but is still not believed to show the whole picture
Analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, as the number of hospital deaths being reported has declined (blue bar), the number of fatalities being recorded outside of hospitals – mainly in care homes – has risen (red bar). The data used has been backdated and counted by actual date of death, making it appear more stable than the erratic numbers announced each day by the Department of Health, which are counted by the date they are registered
Speaking about today’s update data collection, Professor Spiegelhalter told MailOnline: ‘It’s actually a lot more than that [3,811].
‘The true number is probably at least as much again as they added in today, which would take it well above 30,000. They’re doing their best and it is a lot better than what we’ve been getting but it is still not the full picture.
‘If you put those two datasets (ONS and CQC) [with] the new data being reported [it] is still missing a good few hundred deaths each day.’
CARE HOME RESIDENTS DYING AT A FASTER RATE THAN HOSPITAL PATIENTS IN SCOTLAND
People dying in hospitals only make up half of the coronavirus death toll in Scotland, data has revealed, and people are now dying at a faster rate in care homes than they are in hospitals.
A report published today by the National Records of Scotland has shed light on the devastating toll COVID-19 is taking on care home residents.
Of the 656 people who died with the coronavirus between April 20 and April 26, 338 (52 per cent) were in care homes while 276 (42 per cent) happened in hospitals. The remaining 42 happened in someone’s own home or elsewhere.
And the same data showed that, by April 26, 2,272 people were confirmed to have died with COVID-19.
Some 1,188 of these (52 per cent) were hospital patients, while 886 (39 per cent) died in care homes. A further 198 (9 per cent) died at home or elsewhere.
Separate data released today by the National Records of Scotland has made it abundantly clear that the hospital deaths being announced by government officials each day are only showing a fraction of the reality.
National Records data revealed that hospital patients only made up 52 per cent of all fatalities, while 39 per cent happened in nursing homes and 11 per cent elsewhere. When they were added together Scotland’s total death toll for April 26 almost doubled from 1,262 to 2,272.
Care homes, which are believed to still be in the grip of the coronavirus, are disaster-struck and the Government is facing heavy criticism over alleged failures to help the industry prepare.
In England and Wales the number of residents dying of any cause has almost tripled in a month, from around 2,500 per week in March to 7,300 in a single week in April – more than 2,000 of the latter were confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) reports suggest care homes are now seeing around 400 coronavirus deaths each day, on average – a number on par with hospitals in England.
The way data is backdated means that the true picture of what’s happening in care homes is unclear because we currently only have statistics from two weeks ago.
The true scale of the crisis has also been masked by a lack of routine testing, meaning hundreds of elderly residents may have died without ever being diagnosed.
Professor John Newton, the Government’s testing chief, yesterday explained officials had been working on the assumption that if one person tested positive for COVID-19 in a home then anyone else who developed symptoms probably also had it and didn’t need testing.
Public Health England data has revealed that almost a third of all nursing homes in the country have reported coronavirus outbreaks.
THIRD OF RESIDENTS DIE OF COVID-19 AT CARE HOMES IN ESSEX AND PETERBOROUGH
Nearly a third of residents have died at a 22-bed Essex care home and an 18-resident facility in Peterborough.
Jenny Smith, director of care at Westcliff Lodge Care Home in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, revealed the devastating impact coronavirus is having at the care home.
‘We’re all still adjusting and trying to process the loss,’ she told BBC Breakfast earlier this month.
‘The loss and the pain and the devastation. We have many people off sick as well with suspected COVID, so we’ve been under tremendous pressure.
‘There’s so much fear among the staff because this is a virus that affects people of all ages, and that’s a really primary difference really compared to normal influenza outbreaks.’
Nearly a third of residents at Westcliff Lodge Care Home, Essex, have died during coronavirus outbreak
Some 85 per cent of the carers at the virus-hit care home in Peterborough (pictured) have either fallen sick or are having to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers
Meanwhile, at least six people have died at the Philia Care Home in Peterborough.
Earlier this month the daughter of one of the victims said the state care homes had been left in was ‘wicked’.
Rhona White, 64 – whose mother Peggy Grainger, 86, had a moving final letter from her family read to her because they were unable to visit – said: ‘The whole situation is just criminal. People are being allowed to die in these homes and nobody seems to really care about it.’
Some 85 per cent of carers at Philia Care Home in Peterborough have either fallen sick or had to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers.
Manager Heidi Seldon, who moved into the home to sleep in her office, said: ‘What I wasn’t prepared for was how hard it was going to be, emotionally, watching so many of my residents suffering from coronavirus.
‘We’re just trying to hold ourselves together and hope that there will be some light at the end of the tunnel.’
Some 4,516 homes had reported cases of the virus between March 17 and April 27, which represents around 29 per cent of all homes.
The North East of England has been worst hit, with four in 10 of its care homes affected (291 total), followed by the North West (36 per cent) and London (33 per cent).
Government ministers are now having to fend off accusations that they left the 400,000 people living in care homes in the lurch in the early stages of Britain’s epidemic when they focused their efforts on NHS hospitals.
Chief government scientist Sir Patrick Vallance admitted this week that Whitehall was told ‘very early on’ – believed to be late January or early February – that care homes would be a danger zone. The Government has been accused of ‘shambolic’ and haphazard’ attempts to support the sector since then and the first death wasn’t announced until March 31.
The CQC said a total of 4,343 people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 died in care homes between April 10 and April 24 alone.
ONS statistics published yesterday show that more than a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths are happening outside of hospitals – by April 17 there had been 4,316 non-hospital deaths out of a total 19,112.
Almost three-quarters of people living in care homes have dementia, making them extremely vulnerable, and many have other serious health problems.
Professor Spiegelhalter said: ‘While COVID deaths in hospitals have been steadily declining since April 8 and now number around 400-450 a day, new Care Quality Commission data show that last week there were around 350-400 COVID deaths in English care-homes each day.
‘When we add in deaths at home, this suggests there are now about as many COVID deaths out of hospital as in hospital. And while hospital deaths are steadily decreasing, there is no sign yet that we are past the peak in care homes.’
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 yesterday, he added, ‘slightly sticking my neck out’ that there were actually more happening outside of hospitals.
As more detail has emerged showing how hard nursing homes have been hit by the virus, the Government is facing growing pressure to explain its actions and apparent lack of support.
Although care homes are not run by the Government and many are owned by private, profit-making companies, they house hundreds of thousands of the country’s most vulnerable people and have close links to local councils, which fund some residents’ fees, and NHS services.
Politicians have hit back against claims the care sector was overlooked.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Radio 4 today: ‘I don’t accept it was overlooked, but obviously there was a real focus on our NHS because there were concerns that it might be overwhelmed and we wanted to make sure they had absolutely everything they needed.
‘But in the case of care homes, we have always recognised that there was more vulnerability there.’
Asked if tests not being available earlier for care home workers had cost lives, Mr Eustice told BBC Breakfast: ‘I don’t think it is in that we’ve been working very very closely with the care sector and they have had very clear protocols in place.
‘Because those staff are dealing with obviously very vulnerable cohort, the elderly, sometimes people with other conditions, if they are showing any symptoms at all then they must not be at work.
‘Obviously testing does help and we’re now able to roll that testing out.’
Data from the National Records of Scotland today showed that the COVID-19 death toll is almost twice as high when deaths that happen outside of hospitals are included – some 48 per cent of fatalities have happened in care homes or private residences
TWENTY RESIDENTS DIE IN SINGLE SCOTTISH CARE HOME
At least 20 residents died of the coronavirus at the Berelands Care Home in Prestwick, Ayrshire, this month.
By April 17, 20 people had succumbed to the disease, with four people dying in a single 24-hour period when the home hit headlines because of the tragedy.
One resident died on April 17, and three had passed away the day before. 16 others had died in the days and weeks before.
A spokesperson said at the time: ‘We are deeply saddened to confirm that four more residents have died from what we believe to be COVID-19.
At least 20 people died at the Berelands Care Home in Scotland
‘This is profoundly upsetting, and our deepest sympathies are with their families and friends.
‘We are entirely focused on caring for, and protecting, all our residents and are extremely grateful to our dedicated staff who are doing their absolute best at this extraordinarily difficult time.’
Until recently, testing chief Professor Newton has explained, a small number of tests would be carried out at a care home if there was a suspected outbreak. If a resident or staff member tested positive, the outbreak would be acknowledged and anyone else who became ill would be presumed to be infected but not tested.
This has now changed and anyone living or working in a home, whether they have symptoms or not, will be able to get a free swab test to find out if they have the disease.
However, Professor Newton said a ‘substantial’ number of people have already died.
He said on LBC: ‘We have always known that a proportion of cases have been in care homes. Sadly coronavirus affects older people a lot more… there will be a substantial number (of deaths).’
If Office for National Statistics data is a reliable indication of what is to come, the country’s total death toll could spike by up to 55 per cent.
As of Tuesday, the official coronavirus death toll in the UK stood at 21,678 in Britain after England, Scotland and Wales announced a further 586 deaths in hospitals.
But an ONS report revealed that the true scale of the outbreak may be 54.6 per cent higher because the Department of Health’s stats don’t include people dying outside of hospitals.
The statistics body found that, by April 17, England and Wales had recorded 22,351 coronavirus fatalities – a significant rise on the 14,451 counted by health chiefs. If the same increase – 54.6 per cent – were applied to the current UK death toll (21,678) it could mean the real number of victims is in the region of 33,500.
ONS data, which is released each week and offers the only true picture on how many people have died outside of hospitals, recorded 3,096 COVID-19 care home deaths by April 17.
This was almost triple the 1,043 total announced the week before, with 2,000 new fatalities in the space of a week.
FIFTEEN RESIDENTS DIE AT DURHAM CARE HOME
Fifteen people are reported to have died at the Stanley Park Care Home in County Durham, after being suspected to have caught the coronavirus.
Chronicle Live reported the death of a 15th resident a week ago.
The home, which has space for 71 residents, had suffered a further 14 fatalities in the previous weeks but hadn’t had any residents officially test positive.
Regional director of Care UK, which runs the home, Karen Morrison, said: ‘It is with great regret that I have to say another resident has passed away after showing symptoms that might indicate coronavirus.’
Staff and residents at the home hit headlines when heart-warming footage emerged of them being sung classic wartime songs to raise their spirits.
Vera Lynn tribute act Deborah Taylor-Smith, known as the Geordie Sweetheart ‘Wor Vera’, this month sang a selection of morale-lifting songs such as ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ to entertain the residents.
A carer in PPE and a resident enjoying the songs. The singer said: ‘I have been boosting morale, I feel a little bit like how Vera Lynn might have felt’
Many of those who die outside of hospitals are not tested for the coronavirus while alive, meaning this data shows Britain’s outbreak is much larger than it appears because those people are unlikely to have been counted in testing figures. Some are never officially diagnosed and are only suspected to have had the illness.
So many people are being killed by the virus that the week from April 11 to 17 was the deadliest for England and Wales since records began in 1993 and had a death toll (22,351) more than double the yearly average (10,497). Four out of every 10 people who died in that week were infected with coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said at yesterday’s public briefing: ‘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 and CQC 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.
The new data is being collected by Public Health England from the ONS and the CQC and will date back to the beginning of March. Only test-confirmed cases will be included.
The ONS will continue to be the most accurate source of data because it counts everyone who has COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate, whether they were tested or not. The CQC, which regulates care homes and hospitals, also includes suspected deaths in a bid to make sure people are not missed out because tests weren’t available.
This means both records use a wider net than the NHS – they may include some wrong diagnoses but also encompass those who would never normally have been tested.
The downside to the ONS data, however, is that it is backdated and takes a long time to record, meaning it’s 10 days out of date by the time it gets published.
It also does not include Scotland or Northern Ireland, which have their own records.
A graph presented by the Government at yesterday’s briefing showed that increasing numbers of people are dying outside of hospitals and, in the week up to April 17, care home victims accounted for around a quarter of the total
County Durham has so far had the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in care homes with 84, followed by Sheffield (79), Birmingham (71) and Liverpool (67), yesterday’s ONS data showed.
And of the 22,351 people who had died by April 17, 8,514 were aged between 80 and 89. A further 3,998 (18 per cent) were 90 or older, and 3,232 (14.5 per cent) were between 79 and 75.
Deaths decline on a sliding scale through the younger age groups, with only 38 people in their 20s (0.17 per cent) succumbing to the disease, along with nine children and teenagers (0.04 per cent).
The Alzheimer’s Society said 70 per cent of all people living in care homes have dementia, making them especially vulnerable.
Director of policy at the charity, Sally Copley, said: ‘While we are not in the least surprised we are still devastated to hear nearly a quarter of confirmed coronavirus deaths in England are now confirmed as coming from care homes, and still rising every week, exposing the true growing scale of the crisis that is happening in our nation’s care homes.
WEEKLY CARE HOME DEATH COUNT TRIPLES IN A MONTH AMID THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
The number of people dying each week in care homes has tripled in a month, according to a shock report.
ONS data shows 7,316 fatalities were recorded in homes across England and Wales in the week that ended April 17 – including 2,050 involving COVID-19.
In comparison, just 2,471 deaths of any cause were registered in care homes in the week that ended March 13 – before the crisis began to spiral in Britain.
But the rate has risen in line with the coronavirus outbreak, jumping to 3,769 in Week 14 (March 27-April 3) and 4,927 in Week 15 (April 3-10).
It means the official care home death toll from COVID-19 – registered up until April 17 – in England and Wales stands at 3,096.
But the true figure is likely to be much higher because it does not take into account a registration lag.
For example, separate figures show the number of care home deaths that occurred in England up until April 17 but registered by April 25 was 3,936.
Meanwhile, England’s care regulator – the CQC – says the number of COVID-19 fatalities in homes is at least 4,300. This tally includes both suspected and confirmed cases.
County Durham has so far had the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in care homes with 84, followed by Sheffield (79), Birmingham (71) and Liverpool (67)
‘With 70 per cent of people in care homes living with dementia this pandemic is taking a dreadful toll on the families we work with. The Government must make sure that every single death is examined and counted.
‘We know that this is a terrifying time for those with loved ones with dementia in care homes.
‘People are dying, alone, because it’s clear that care homes are just not receiving the testing and protective equipment they were promised by the Government.’
The sharpened focus on the care sector comes after Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, revealed that he and other senior scientists warned politicians ‘very early on’ about the risk COVID-19 posed to care homes.
Sir Patrick, who chairs the group along with Professor Chris Whitty , said they had ‘flagged’ the risk of care home and hospital outbreaks at the start of the epidemic.
While warnings about hospitals sparked a ‘protect the NHS ‘ mantra and a scramble to buy ventilators and free up beds, nursing homes saw no such efforts.
The Government has been slated for its lack of support to nursing homes, with no routine testing available, no up-to-date records of the number of people infected or dead, and ‘paltry’ attempts to deliver adequate protective clothing for staff.
Care home staff and residents say they feel ‘forgotten’ and bosses accused officials of a ‘shambolic’ attempt to help nursing homes fend off the disease, which is lethal for elderly people in particular.
Explaining how SAGE works in a briefing on Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘Very early on we looked at a number of topics, we looked at nosocomial infection very early on, that’s the spread in hospitals, and we flagged that as something that the NHS needed to think about.
‘We flagged the fact that we thought care homes would be an important area to look at, and we flagged things like vaccine development and so on. So we try to take a longer term view of things as well as dealing with the urgent and immediate areas.’
The SAGE committee, which draws in leading researchers from around the UK and rifles through scientific evidence about COVID-19, was activated on January 3 when Sir Patrick became concerned about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
It met for the first time on January 22, suggesting ‘very early on’ in its discussions was likely the end of January or the beginning of February.
The first care home death in England and Wales was not officially recorded until March 31.
Dementia UK’s director of clinical services, Paul Edwards, said: ‘The fact that we are only now being made aware of just how significant this pandemic has affected people working and living in care homes is testament to how social care is viewed – nowhere near held in the same regard as healthcare.
‘More PPE equipment, access to testing and funding for example would benefit not just care homes but wider society too; from ensuring care home residents are safeguarded, to preventing avoidable hospital admissions to improving the mental health of families who may be worried that their relatives in care do not have the support they need. It’s time we see social care as part of healthcare and vice versa.’