Advising with empathy and experience

Two-thirds of residents die in Covid outbreak at Lincolnshire care home.


A Lincolnshire care home was devastated after Covid killed two-thirds of its residents, with two staff treated in hospital, in an outbreak the manager described as “horrendous.”

Eighteen of 27 residents at The Old Hall, Halton Holegate, near Spilsby, died in the run-up to Christmas, the care home’s manager, Diane Vale, said. Most of those who died were in their 90s. The youngest was 79 and the oldest 99.

Some of the deaths were so sudden staff did not have the chance to administer end-of-life treatment or arrange for loved ones to say goodbye.

It was the most devastating care home outbreak in England during the second wave of the pandemic as the more transmissible variant of the virus spread and GPs raced to vaccinate all residents.

Diane Vale said:  “The outbreak started on 16 November and lasted around six weeks. All 27 residents tested positive at the same time, as well as 20 out of 28 staff. It was awful. We lost 18 residents. I have been a manager for 40 years and have never had to deal with anything like it. It was horrendous.”

Two members of staff were so ill they were taken to hospital. The home’s infection control procedures were validated as safe by regulators at the end of November 2020. Core staff had moved in to reduce the risk of infection spreading.

The home is in East Lindsey, the district of Lincolnshire that recorded one of the highest weekly number of Covid care homes deaths in England. Fifty-two people died from Covid in the district’s care homes in the five weeks to 3 January, second only to the number of care home deaths, 71, in East Riding.

Across the UK, 23,916 people had died from confirmed, or suspected, Covid in care homes by 1 January 2021 – 31% of all deaths from the virus.

The first death from Covid at The Old Hall was on 18 November; two days after the residents were all tested for the virus.

Diane Vale added: “Originally there were no symptoms and there was no indication of those they tell you to look for, such as a continuous cough or high temperature.”

The manager said panic went through her mind, as she had been able to keep coronavirus out of her care home during the first wave of the pandemic.

She said: “You get used to losing residents. That is the nature of a care home and the life expectancy when you are in a care home is two years. You expect to lose residents periodically but not that quickly and in that number. The effects on staff emotionally and mentally are horrendous.”

Vale said staff spent a lot of time crying and they moved into a caravan nearby to be around to help.

She added: “For a lot of residents, we did not have time to bring them to the hospital because they were not poorly for long enough. We were talking to doctors daily but, with a lot of them, there were no signs they were going to die.

“One lady who had a full bowl of porridge in the morning, and ate her lunch and died the next day. Some of the deaths were even quicker than that.”

Diane Vale said a lot of residents did not get to say goodbye to loved ones or receive the normal end-of-life care. “Some did pass on their own because there was no suggestion anything was going to happen. We went in to do checks and they had gone.

“The staff were amazing. People who think Covid is a hoax want to come to a care home or hospital. They are on their knees.”