Coronavirus: Why are care home deaths not included in official death toll?

Nursing and care homes across Europe are battling to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the elderly. France has now recorded nearly 1,500 deaths in care home settings, and the numbers are also rising across the UK

The figures are compiled from data provided by NHS England and Improvement, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales and the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland.

Cases are confirmed at 5pm each day and are announced in the daily press briefing by the government.

Figures do not include deaths outside hospital, such as those in care homes.

This allows for faster, more up-to-date figures to be readily available to the public.


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The Department for Health and Social Care website explains this is because “the amount of time between occurrence of death and reporting in these figures may vary slightly and in some cases could be a few days, so figures at 5pm may not include all deaths for that day.”

The Department for Health and Social Care published daily figures currently make no mention of the coronavirus deaths outside of hospitals.

Deaths which happen outside of hospitals, such as those in care homes or at home, can take longer to trace statistically because of the time it can take for important steps, such as post mortems, funerals and paperwork to pass through coroners’ offices.

However, this has resulted in a less than full picture of how many people the virus is actually killing.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the majority of deaths from coronavirus have been among people aged 65 years, and over 41 percent of those occurring in those who are over 85.

There have not been reports of people dying at home from coronavirus without seeking medical help from a hospital or ambulance service initially.

The lack of care home deaths being included in the total daily tally, and in general, is causing major concern across the UK.

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Last week evidence emerged suggesting elderly residents in care and nursing homes are being pressured into agreeing to “do not resuscitate” notices.

The BBC reported seeing a document circulated by the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, which covers 35 general practices and 98 residential or nursing homes, directing all homes to “check they have resuscitation orders on every patient.”

Elderly residents infected with COVID-19 could be refused admission to hospital, with the document stating, “We may therefore recommend that in the event of coronavirus infection, hospital admission is undesirable.”

Care home operators have now asked for the army and family doctors to be called in to help tackle a spate of coronavirus-related deaths after several homes in Scotland reported significant outbreaks.

Dozens of elderly people, many with significant underlying health problems, are thought to have died over the last 10 days in Scottish care homes from coronavirus.

Large numbers have emerged at two residential homes, including 12 fatalities at one in Cranhill, Glasgow, and eight at a care home in Dumbarton, with other reports of deaths at others around Scotland.

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