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THE Tories are presiding over a “national scandal” in care homes, where recorded deaths of elderly residents from coronavirus have increased tenfold in one week.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published today showed that in the week to April 3, 217 people in care homes in England and Wales died from the virus, compared with 23 the previous week.
The government confirmed on Monday evening that over 2,000 care homes have suffered coronavirus outbreaks. But care sector leaders warn that the true number of deaths is still likely to be far higher. Last week, Care England, the industry’s representative body, estimated the death toll at about 1,000.
Two of Britain’s largest care home providers, HC-One and MHA, have reported 521 deaths in recent weeks from the virus.
Care England chief executive Martin Green said: “The ONS figures show a significant increase in the numbers of people that have died in care homes, but we need more testing and more regular figures so that we understand the scope of the pandemic.”
The disparity between the figures has prompted concerns that ministers have been underestimating the scale of the problem in care homes.
MPs are now demanding that statistics on coronavirus deaths in the community should be issued daily.
Labour’s shadow social-care minister Liz Kendall said: “We urgently need these figures on a daily basis to help deal with the emerging crisis in social care and ensure everything possible is being done to protect more than 400,000 elderly and disabled people who live in nursing and residential care homes.”
Deaths from coronavirus that occur outside hospitals are excluded from official statistics, leading charities to warn that old people are being “airbrushed” from coronavirus figures.
Labour MP Diane Abbott accused the government of being deliberately opaque about the scale of the crisis in care homes. “When the whole truth comes out, it will be one of the biggest scandals of the coronavirus,” she said.
Unison blames the soaring number of deaths in care homes on chronic shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The union’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “These figures are nothing short of a national scandal. Elderly and vulnerable residents face a death sentence because staff lack PPE.
“Care staff working in residential homes and out in the community feel like they — and the people they care for — are bottom of the priority list for PPE.”
But Work & Pension Secretary Therese Coffey defended the exclusion of care-home deaths from official figures. She told the BBC that the daily figure was based on hospital deaths because “it’s accurate and quick.”
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