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Thousands more could be dead in care homes than official figures show

THOUSANDS more people may have died in care homes from coronavirus than official figures suggest, a new study revealed today. 

The study, conducted by the National Care Forum (NCF), adds to growing evidence that government figures severely underestimate the scale of the tragedy unfolding in care homes nationwide. 

Data collected by the NCF, which represents not-for-profit adult social-care providers, suggests that 4,040 people may have died from Covid-19 up to April 13. 

This dwarfs the Office of National Statistics total of only 217 deaths in care homes in England and Wales up until April 3. 

The projection is based on data collected from 47 care homes looking after 30,000 people – 7.4 per cent of the care-sector population.

NCF found 299 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 deaths in those homes in the week from April 7 to 13, almost three times the previous week’s total. 

When scaled up to reflect the entire country’s care-home population, the NCF estimated that there could have been 4,040 deaths before April 13 not included in the official figures.

The study follows separate analysis by Care England reported on Saturday suggesting that 7,500 people could have died in care homes after contracting the virus.

By calling into question the official figures for care-home fatalities, the studies also add to concerns that the national coronavirus death toll could be far higher than has been admitted, since daily government updates only include deaths in hospital. 

NCF executive director Vic Rayner said: “Quite simply, so long as groups such as residents in care services are omitted from the real-time national reporting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government will surely be unable to properly plan for how to protect its people or exit this crisis.” 

“Our current national debate on how to mitigate and exit this crisis is virtually entirely centred on the management of the peak within hospitals.”

Concerns about under-reporting have also been raised by research showing the scale of the problem in other European countries. 

Between 42 per cent and 52 per cent of all coronavirus-related deaths in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium have occurred in care homes, according to statistical analysis by the London School of Economics.

Last week, Barchester Healthcare, Britain’s third-largest residential care provider, reported that, as of April 16, 196 residents had died from the virus. Of those, 130 died in the homes themselves and 66 in hospitals. Cases of the virus had been confirmed at half of the provider’s 220 sites. 

Barchester chief executive Pete Calveley said he was aware of other providers who have confirmed or suspected cases across 75 per cent of their homes. 

At the weekend, Public Health England said there were 3,084 care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks in England as of last Wednesday.

The government has faced criticism from leaders in the sector and unions about severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in care homes.

 Last week, Unison said care-home residents were “facing a death sentence because staff lack PPE.”

The Department for Health statement said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and that is why we are working around the clock to give the social-care sector the equipment and support they need to tackle this global pandemic.”

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