More than a fifth of care home residents have died of Covid in the worst-hit parts of England in the North since the start of the pandemic, official data suggests.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show the number of care home residents who died in England and Wales was a fifth higher than the average for the previous five years.
Some 173,974 care home resident deaths were registered in England and Wales between March 14 and April 2 — a rise of 19.5 per cent. Around 42,000 were from Covid, figures showed.
The stats also showed care home deaths were far greater at their peak in the first wave of the pandemic than in their second, in part thanks to ‘vaccine availability’, according to the ONS.
And MailOnline analysis using care home population statistics from NHS England’s Capacity Tracker shows the rate of Covid deaths in care home residents varied wildly across the country.
The data — which uses population numbers from May this year — suggest more than a fifth of residents died with the virus in South Tyneside, Darlington, Doncaster and St Helens. For comparison, the rate is thought to be less than five per cent in Plymouth.
Care England, the largest national body representing independent adults social care providers, called for a public inquiry into the handling of care homes during the pandemic.
The charity’s chief executive Professor Martin Green told MailOnline: ‘Care England maintains that a public inquiry is necessary to cross reference all the different factors and better understand both where mistakes were made and what lessons can be learned.
‘We are saddened by each and every death amongst residents and staff as a result of this dreadful pandemic but want to pay tribute to the marvellous work that our frontline social care staff have done day in day out.’
More than a fifth of care home residents have died of Covid in South Tyneside, Darlington, Doncaster and St Helens since the start of the pandemic, MailOnline analysis of Office for National Statistics data suggests
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was today slammed for not delivering on the Government’s 2019 pledge to reform social care in England, with no plans set to be included in the Queen’s Speech this afternoon.
His predecessor Jeremy Hunt and former deputy prime minister Damian Green slammed the inaction for causing ‘incredible worry’ and ‘frustration’.
Experts warned in January this year that the failure to reform the crumbling care system is a major reason Britain has suffered one Europe’s worst death tolls from Covid.
Of the 103,000 people in the UK who had died at the time from Covid, one in three lived in care homes. The NHS was accused of risking lives by discharging Covid patients back into their care homes last year.
MailOnline’s analysis uses population statistics in older adult care homes from Capacity Tracker, which is used by NHS Trusts to source vacancies across England in hospitals and care homes.
The population estimates are for May 2 this year, meaning death figures will be slightly skewed than from if they were taken before the pandemic — particularly in the areas worst hit by coronavirus.
But the proportions give a good indication of how severe the pandemic has hit different areas of the country.
Some 38 of England’s 151 upper tier local authorities saw more than 15 per cent of their care home residents die with Covid since March last year, the figures suggested.
After St Helens in Merseyside, the worst hit were Southampton (18.5 per cent), Bury (18.1 per cent), Redcar and Cleveland (17.8 per cent), Slough (17.7 per cent) and County Durham (17.6 per cent).
For comparison, 19 areas saw death rates of less than 10 per cent. After Plymouth, the least affected were: Devon (5.35 per cent), Hackney (5.36 per cent), Cornwall (5.67 per cent) and North Somerset (6.60 per cent).
What’s wrong with social care?
Experts warned in January this year that the failure to reform the crumbling care system is a major reason Britain has suffered one Europe’s worst death toll from Covid.
Of the 103,000 people in the UK who had died at the time from Covid-19, one in three – 31,000 – lived in care homes.
Fifteen medical bodies joined forces to demand Boris Johnson ‘drastically overhauls’ social care after the broken system was ‘brutally exposed’ by the pandemic.
The report warns social care spending has fallen by 12 per cent in the past decade, with 1.4million adults missing out on vital support. This has devastating consequences for the NHS, as vulnerable patients end up in A&E needlessly and become ‘stranded’ in hospital beds.
And in march the National Audit Office said the middle classes face a £20billion social care time bomb unless Boris Johnson delivers on his promise to reform the system.
It revealed that the amount the middle classes will have to contribute towards their own old-age care is set to more than double in 20 years.
It also found that a quarter of over-65s had an unmet care need as a result of failures in the system.
Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said: ‘It’s interesting that there seems to be such a variation between the percentages whose deaths involved Covid-19 in different areas, and there are all kinds of possible explanations.
‘But these data can’t on their own tell us what the valid explanations are.
‘Perhaps it’s something to do with when in the pandemic the deaths occurred, because Covid wasn’t so easy to identify in the early stages because there wasn’t much testing.
‘Perhaps it’s something to do with the types of people that live in care homes in different areas. Perhaps it’s because the figures for the numbers of people living in care homes have changed a lot over time, during the pandemic, and in different ways in different parts of the country.
‘One thing to remember, though, is that many people living in care homes for the elderly are very old and very frail and infirm – that’s often why they are living in a care home.
‘The average length of time that people live in care homes is, very roughly, two years. So, very roughly, even without Covid, you might expect something close to half the residents to die each year, on average.
‘During the period of about a year covered by these data, about 55 per cent of the care home population of England (using these figures) died in total.
‘About 13 per cent of that population suffered a death that involved Covid, so about 42 per cent of the population died of something not involving Covid.
‘But the figures for deaths that didn’t involve Covid also varied a lot from one place to another, and in a way that’s not really associated with the levels of Covid deaths. The picture seems to be pretty complicated.’
The ONS data also showed coronavirus accounted for 42,341 care home resident deaths — almost a quarter (24.3 per cent) of the total.
The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes. For example, some residents are moved to hospital if they become seriously ill and die there.
Overall deaths fell between waves one and two, with 89,528 deaths in the first wave, which the ONS defines as deaths registered up to September 12, 2020.
From this point on, during the second wave, 84,446 deaths were registered.
There were 27,079 excess deaths in the first wave of the pandemic, and 1,335 excess deaths during the second wave.
The ONS said this may be due to delayed access to care services, rapid testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) during wave one.
In the second wave, care home occupancy was lower and residents were prioritised for a Covid vaccine from December. And some of those who may have died in the second wave may have died earlier, the ONS said.
At the first wave peak, total deaths were around 3.4 times higher than the five-year average, with deaths 1.3 times higher than usual at the peak of wave two.
The figures also show there was a higher proportion of deaths involving Covid in wave two than in wave one.
Some 20,664 deaths of care home residents mentioned Covid in wave one compared with 21,677 deaths (25.7 per cent) in wave two.
The ONS advised caution when comparing the two waves, since there could have been undiagnosed coronavirus cases in the first wave due to less testing and less clinical experience with a new disease.
Throughout the pandemic, Covid was the leading cause of death in male residents, while for female residents it was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, followed by coronavirus.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the most common pre-existing condition among residents who died with Covid across both waves.