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Covid deaths in care homes could be thousands more than official figures, say providers

·3-min read
(Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)
(Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

Covid deaths in care homes could be higher than Government figures show, care providers have claimed.

In data published last month by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a total of 39,017 deaths occurred in care homes in England from April 10 2020 to March 31.

But this figure is likely to be higher because deaths that occurred before April 10 2020 - almost three weeks after the UK went into the first national lockdown - were not being counted as Covid-related, care providers told The Sunday Telegraph.

A care home manager, who has not been named, said that “thousands of elderly residents” are likely to have died during the nine days in the time between CQC approving a policy to allow elderly patients with coronavirus to be discharged from hospitals into care homes.

The CQC approved this policy, which was drafted by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), on April 2 2020.

It meant infected patients were transported from hospitals into care homes in a bid to free up bed spaces.

It was not until April 15 2020 that discharged patients were being tested for the virus before going into care homes.

According to correspondence seen by the Sunday Telegraph between a care home manager and the CQC’s information access team, death records in the nine days leading up to April 10 show that 7,775 deaths were reported in this period.

This figure is 4,190 higher than the same period the year before – hinting that the number of people that died with Covid in care homes over the year to the end of March is at least 43,000.

One care home manager told the newspaper the regulator “failed every one of its own standards” and called the CQC’s Covid policy of allowing hospital patients to be discharged to care homes without Covid-19 testing as “a death warrant”.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) spokesperson said: “On 2 April The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued guidance on Admission and care of residents in a care home during COVID-19 . This guidance was developed, with input from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England and CQC.

“CQC’s objective in making amendments to the guidance was to ensure that care settings were involved in decisions about how to manage the care needs of their residents safely, while balancing this with the increased pressures on hospital capacity. In our view the original draft left providers with little power to challenge individual decisions if they felt their care setting was not adequately equipped to meet the needs of the person being admitted while keeping other residents safe.

“We felt it was imperative to be clear that providers should be the involved in decision making for each placement and we ensured that the original guidance as drafted by DHSC was amended to achieve this before putting our name to it. We also highlighted a need to involve social care trade associations and linked bodies, to ensure they were sighted and their views reflected.

“The final version of the guidance dated April 2 stated that people could only be discharged to care homes if certain criteria were in place:

  1. that information from the discharging hospital included the data and results of any COVID-19 test, the date and onset of the symptoms

  1. that the care home had the ability to isolate symptomatic people

  1. that care staff had adequate PPE

“If these elements were not in place, we were clear with providers that they would be able to refuse an admission and we said that we would back registered managers refusing admissions if they weren’t satisfied they could deliver safe care. Some care home managers contacted us to ask whether we would support their decision not to admit a person with Covid-19 based on the absence of one of these elements and we have confirmed that we would do so.”

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