Advising with empathy and experience

Older people 'airbrushed out of UK coronavirus figures'.

Older people are being airbrushed out of UK coronavirus figures, charities have warned.

The official death toll was criticised for including only people dying in hospital but not in care homes or at home.

At the time of writing, the latest Office for National Statistics  (ONS) figures, which included every Covid-19 linked community death in England and Wales, showed 406 deaths outside hospitals. This would have added 11% to the official UK figures, based solely on deaths in hospitals, reported at that time.

Of those extra deaths, 217 were in care homes, 33 in hospices, 136 in private homes, three in other communal establishments and 17 elsewhere.

Northern Ireland's chief medical officer said details about the number of coronavirus-related care home deaths  remained unclear, but Covid-19 cases had been reported in 20 care homes.

Charities including Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer's Society wrote to health secretary, Matt Hancock, demanding help for social care during the pandemic. They also called for a daily update on care system deaths.

The call came after the government confirmed that there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England, although, at that time it did not specify the number of deaths.

Age UK claimed coronavirus was "running wild" in care homes. Director, Caroline Abrahams, said: "The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don't matter."

She said care homes were underprepared for the outbreak, adding that a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing was hastening the spread of coronavirus across the sector.

About 410,000 people live in 11,300 UK care homes run by 5,500 different providers.

Britain's largest care home operator, HC-One, which has 329 care homes throughout England, Scotland and Wales, said coronavirus had been detected in two-thirds, or 232, of its homes. Its director, Sir David Behan, said that Covid-19 deaths, represented about a third of all those at its homes during the previous three weeks.

MHA, a charity with 131 homes, said it had experienced 210 coronavirus-related deaths.

Addressing why care home deaths were not included in government data, work and pensions secretary, Therese Coffey, said that the ONS weekly figures were the only fair way of establishing where deaths were happening.

She claimed that the care sector was not being left behind, adding that PPE was being delivered "to over 26,000 care settings across the country including care homes, home care providers and hospices.”

England's care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has said it would start recording deaths by asking care providers to give daily updates on confirmed and suspected cases.

The Labour Party called on the government to publish daily figures of care homes deaths to highlight the true scale of the spread of the virus.

Labour shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, said daily figures were essential to dealing with the "emerging crisis" in care homes and called for the government to offer social care "whatever resources it needs.”

Conservative peer and former work and pensions minister, Baroness Altmann, said that people in care homes had told her they felt as though older people were being treated "like lambs to the slaughter.”

She said: "Care homes are left without protective equipment and testing. The mark of a civilised society is how it treats it most vulnerable and oldest citizens.”

UK chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing that 92 UK homes reported outbreaks in one day and The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed 2,099 care homes in England had cases of the virus.

Care England estimated there had been nearly 1,000 coronavirus deaths in care homes, leaving social care as "the neglected front line.”

The latest care homes to confirm deaths from symptoms of the virus include one in Glasgow, a specialist dementia home in Selston, Nottinghamshire, and one in County Durham where 13 residents died.