Story updated 17 May
Deaths among home care service users reported to the regulator in England were almost three times average levels for previous years over the past month, show official figures released today.
The Office for National Statistics reported that the deaths of 3,161 people using home care were notified to the Care Quality Commission from 10 April to 8 May, compared with an average of 1,171 over the same period in the previous three years.
Only 593 of these deaths involved Covid-19, but the figures are the first sign of the scale of the impact, both direct and indirect, of the coronavirus on the sector, which has so far been overshadowed by that in hospitals and, latterly, care homes.
The figures only cover those deaths that must be reported to the regulator – because they occurred while services were being delivered, or were potentially a result of their delivery.
This point was made on Twitter by United Kingdom Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Townson, who linked the absence of wider data to a lack of testing for Covid-19 within the sector.
CQC data on deaths in homecare are not directly comparable with those in care homes. Only deaths related to delivery of a regulated service in homecare have to be reported to CQC, not all deaths. Lack of testing in homecare means cause of death is anyone’s guess.
— Jane Townson (@drjanetownson) May 15, 2020
The latest on care home deaths
Alongside the home care figures, the ONS published updated figures on deaths among care home residents which, unlike previous data, included details of fatalities in other settings, notably hospitals, as well as in homes themselves. This showed that:
- From March 2, when the coronavirus pandemic was declared, to 1 May, there were 45,899 deaths of care home residents in England and Wales (registered up to 9 May), with 12,526 (27.3%) involving Covid-19.
- Of deaths involving Covid-19, 72.2% were in care homes and 27.5% within hospital – and deaths of care home residents accounted for 14.6% of hospital deaths involving Covid during this period.
- From 28 December 2019 to 1 May this year, there were 73,180 deaths among care home residents, 23,136 more than the same period last year.
Responding to the news, Sally Warren, director of policy at think-tank the King’s Fund, said: “We…know that the virus has exposed weaknesses in a social care system that has been underfunded and overlooked for too long. Before the pandemic, care providers were struggling to recruit staff and many people’s needs were already going unmet.
“Care home and domiciliary care providers urgently need access to testing and PPE [personal protective equipment] for staff, and funding to cover the increased costs that threaten some of their futures. Beyond this, it is essential to get on with long-delayed reform and for the Prime Minister to come good on his promise to fix social care ‘once and for all’.”
Care home ‘support package’
On the day the figures were released, the government set out a “support package” for care homes – 33% of which in England have experienced Covid-19 outbreaks – to help tackle the infection, backed by £600m infection control fund that will be channeled through local authorities, based on the number of care home beds in their areas.
The money will be paid in two tranches, with the second being dependent on the authority spending the first on infection control, with 75% required to be passed directly to care homes, including those with whom the council does not contract. The rest of the money can be used on wider infection control measures, including in domiciliary care.
Among providers, only those submitting data to the daily care home capacity tracker may access money from the fund.
Councils will also have to submit a care home support plan to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) by the end of the month, which should confirm the support they are providing and that they are undertaking a daily review of their local social care market.
The DHSC also said that providers should minimise staff movement and keep workers, including agency staff, within specific care homes subject to maintaining safe staffing levels. The infection control fund is designed to enable homes to pay for more staff to make this possible.