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Covid care home deaths should be counted daily, Labour says

The Party warned delayed weekly data is ‘just scratching the surface’

DEATHS in care homes as a result of Covid-19 should be reported daily rather than in weekly announcements, Labour said today after data showed a large increase.

Numbers of hospital deaths linked to the coronavirus are issued daily, while deaths in care homes are recorded every week and are made public nearly a fortnight later.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which collates deaths that occur in community and home settings, published data yesterday showing that there were 1,662 such deaths up to April 10, a five-fold increase on the 217 deaths recorded for the previous week.

Of the deaths outside hospitals, there were 1,043  in care homes; 466 in private homes; 87 in hospices; 21 in other communal establishments; and 45 elsewhere, according to the ONS stats. The figure for hospital deaths over the period was 8,673.

Shadow social-care minister Liz Kendall said that the “awful figures are only scratching the surface of the emerging crisis in social care,” as the data was already “11 days out of date.”

She said: “The government must now publish daily figures of Covid-19 deaths outside hospital, including in care homes, so we know the true scale of the problem.

“This is essential to tackling the spread of the virus, ensuing social care has the resources it needs and getting vital PPE [protective wear] and testing to care workers on the front line.”

In total there were 13,121 deaths from Covid-19 in hospitals, care homes and hospices in England and Wales up to April 10, 41 per cent higher than the 9,288 people who died in hospitals alone during the same period in figures reported by the Department of Health.

Current procedures to report care-home death figures rely on death certificates being registered and processed. Last week, Public Health England head Professor Yvonne Doyle said that agencies were working towards producing “much more rapid data, preferably on a daily basis.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also promised last week that care-home death data would be available “very shortly” and he confirmed that the Care Quality Commission had started to gather data on fatalities in both hospitals and care homes as of last Thursday. But he did not specify when, or how frequently, this data would be published.

The figures’ accuracy have been thrown into doubt further by reports that GPs have been reluctant to mention coronavirus on death certificates because the form-filling adds to workloads.

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