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.