Covid-19 deaths among social care staff far outstripping those in healthcare

'More will die' if social care is not given equal priority with NHS, says think-tank chief, as ONS figures reveals 131 social care staff had died from disease up to 20 April

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Photo: Fiedels/Adobe Stock

Story updated 12 May

Covid-19 deaths among social care staff in England and Wales are far outstripping those among healthcare workers and among those in the wider working population, official figures show.

Up to 20 April, deaths involving Covid-19 among male social care staff was 23.4 deaths per 100,000 men aged 20-64 (45 deaths in total), compared with a national rate of 9.9 and one of 10.2 among male healthcare workers. Among women, the social care death rate was 9.6 deaths per 100,000 (86 deaths), compared with 5.2 for the general population and 4.8 for female health workers.

The overall number of deaths among social care staff – 131 so far, compared with 106 in the health service – is likely to have gone up significantly since 20 April.

The Office for National Statistics figures add to the growing picture of social care being particularly hard hit by the coronavirus – exemplified by the rising death toll within care homes – and to concerns that staff have been inadequately equipped, not least with personal protective equipment, to deal with it.

‘Putting their lives on the line’

“These shocking figures reveal how care staff are literally putting their lives on the line by going to work.  Their jobs can’t be done without getting up close to the vulnerable and elderly individuals they care for in residential homes and in the community.

“Having access to personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for employees and residents. It’s a scandal many care staff are going into workplaces where safety kit is still unavailable or locked away.”

“This is further evidence that social care is right on the front line in the battle against coronavirus, and staff need to be prioritised and protected accordingly,” said King’s Fund, director of policy at the King’s Fund. “There is a real crisis in social care; people are dying, and more will die if the government doesn’t give the same priority to social care as it does to the NHS.”

The vast majority of social care staff who have lost their lives with Covid-19 are care workers or home care staff, with 98 (66 women and 32 men) in this category, with a further five classed as senior care workers or care escorts. As we have reported separately, ten social workers in England and Wales have lost their lives to the disease.

Access to testing for care staff

The government addressed the availability of testing for care home staff and residents, in its plan to ease the lockdown issued yesterday.

On testing, it said that this would be offered to all staff and residents in care homes for people aged over 65, regardless of symptoms, by 6 June. This is almost six weeks after the government announced the roll out of testing to all staff and residents. There is no similar commitment in relation to other social care staff or service users.

It has also launched an online testing portal which it said would make it easier for care homes in England to arrange deliveries of testing kits so they can test all residents and staff. These are available to homes looking after people with dementia or those aged over 65 only and must be booked by the registered manager or local public health service. Where the home is experiencing an outbreak and no one has been tested the tests will be carried out by local health protection teams.

Care home staff who are self-isolating, either because they or their family members have symptoms of coronavirus, and any home care staff who need a test should book one through the government’s self-referral website.

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9 Responses to Covid-19 deaths among social care staff far outstripping those in healthcare

  1. James Appledore May 12, 2020 at 8:17 am #

    Care workers aren’t dying because they haven’t been protected by the government. They are dying because they are primarily employed by private companies, many in the private equity business, which prioritise dividend payments over staff welfare. Most care workers are paid the minimum wage, are on zero hours contracts and bullied into silence by aggressive anti-union management. Kings Fund should be asking why businesses have no contingency planning. having told us how privatisation leads to improved care, at the first problem they expect the tax payers of our country to bail them out. That’s the second scandal of their cavalier and selfish approach to safety.

  2. A Man Called Horse May 12, 2020 at 11:14 am #

    Care workers are most definitively dying because of government failures. The Government really have shown their duty of care doesn’t apply to care staff both in the community and in residential care settings. The £60,000 will of course come in handy as litigation against both employers and the Government looks almost certain. The Government have acted like truck drivers asleep at the wheel as the lorry ploughed into them causing devastation and death.

  3. Chris May 12, 2020 at 12:36 pm #

    Such a sad situation from all perspectives 1 death is 1 too many.
    I work in a community adult hospital discharge team, interested to ask are colleagues in adult services doing home visits? I work in Walsall, West Midlands.

    • Mel May 12, 2020 at 7:49 pm #

      In the LA I work for in the NW we are only doing critical visits, where telephone calls/video conferencing are inappropriate or insufficient, and without a visit there is a risk of harm. We do a risk assessment first, signed off my service managers, and we have access to PPE.

  4. Martin Squires May 12, 2020 at 6:10 pm #

    I work as an AMHP in London. We are doing home visits and mental health act assessments. We were told that unless we were ill or self isolating it was normal duties and if we refused to do visits it was breach of contract with the implied threat of disciplinary action.

  5. Sally Trezeuge May 14, 2020 at 6:28 pm #

    What about employers duty of care?

  6. James Appledore May 15, 2020 at 10:11 am #

    The Centre for Health and Public interest estimates last year that £1.5 Billion a year, about 10% of care home income, goes in loan fees, rents, share holder dividends, directors fees and profits. Many providers have loaded homes wit massive debt and rent charges while hiving off profits to off shore investors who do not pay UK tax. Providers have exploited poor financial and care regulations to run their business to maximise profit by squeezing local authorities and undervaluing and underpaying their employees. Those of us who review care homes did not need Covid-19 show us that poor environments, rudimental infection control and stressed staff on zero hours contracts who work in multiple care homes to survive on the minimum wage could lead to a disaster. By all means hold this and other governments to account for neglecting social care, but you cannot get away from the fact that if you rely on private equity businesses to provide care, things will get unstuck. Sadly some of our own professional leaders embraced privatisation on empty “choice” rhetoric and have no practical response to care failures and deaths. It’s obvious that if you care for your staff, enhanced their skills, pay at least the Living Wage, take infection control seriously and have emergency response plans backed up by financial reserves, you are better equipped to respond to an emergency.

    • Chipo May 19, 2020 at 11:03 am #

      Well said James Appledore!


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