Socialist Worker

Coronavirus death toll is far higher than Tories announced

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2700

Deaths in care homes arent part of official figures

Deaths in care homes aren't part of official figures


Thousands more people have died from coronavirus than the government has previously announced.

New figures released on Tuesday showed the highest rate of deaths in England and Wales in a single week since records began. They underlined that the government hasn’t been keeping an accurate record of deaths outside of hospitals.

Coronavirus deaths are running over 50 percent higher than the total announced by the government, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

By 3 April there had been 6,253 deaths in England and Wales with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate, ONS statistics show. On 4 April the comparable death toll announced by the government was 4,093.

This is because the daily figures given by government ministers reflect only deaths in hospital after someone has tested positive for Covid-19.

Those who die in care facilities, or in their own homes aren’t counted towards these totals. So the scale of the crisis will certainly be much higher—but by how much nobody knows.

The ONS said that throughout the pandemic in total 217 deaths occurred in care homes, 136 in private homes and 33 in hospices.

Previously the ONS had only counted 20 deaths in care homes. Even the updated figure is a huge underestimate—the question is by how much.

Industry body Care England said the real figure of deaths in care homes is likely to be around 1,000.

Charity Age UK said the disease was “running wild” in care homes. Caroline Abrahams, Age UK director, said, “The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter.

“We were underprepared for this, we are playing catch-up on getting enough PPE and testing. I’m wonder if the needs of care homes were taken seriously early on.”

The information published on Tuesday is already two weeks out of date. So it wouldn’t include last week’s mass fatalities in care homes in Luton, east London and Glasgow.

And care home bosses are speaking out about the crisis running rampant through care homes.

Cases 

Healthcare giant HC-One operates about 350 homes across Britain, and said there had been coronavirus cases in two thirds of its homes.

On Monday evening it said there had been 311 deaths from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in its care homes.

That’s hundreds more people not counted towards any official data in how coronavirus is ripping through care homes.

Another care provider—MHA— said it had recorded 210 deaths in 131 homes.

Data about how coronavirus has impacted care homes in other countries suggests that the picture in Britain is even bleaker.

A report from academics at the International Long Term Care Policy Network (LTCPN) indicates that deaths in care homes in five countries account for around half of Covid-19 fatalities.

Data from Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium shows that between 42 and 57 percent of deaths are happening in care homes.

Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said that 13.5 percent of care homes in Britain had confirmed coronavirus.

Evidence from abroad shows that it’s likely to be much higher than 13.5 percent. Early data from the US indicates that around half of people who were discovered to have Covid-19 infections in care homes had no symptoms at the time of testing.

Because of the Tory government’s refusal to implement mass testing, test kits are not freely available to care homes.

Many more vulnerable people will be infected with Covid-19 but won’t qualify to be tested, potentially until they are really ill.

The depth and scale of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain was not inevitable, but a result of government policy. It’s no surprise that the Tories aren’t even recording the fatalities from some of the most vulnerable in our society, let alone protecting them.


For profit homes mean a risk to life

The coronavirus in care homes is exacerbated by an industry that is fragmented and highly competitive. 

The Skills for Care charity said there are around 22,000 adult social care organisations at 41,000 care-providing locations across Britain.

It’s an industry privatised by New Labour and the Tories, and one where private firms run care facilities for profit. When firms run into financial difficulty, companies can withdraw care—often suddenly—and the contract is passed on by the local authority to the lowest bidder.

Privatisation makes it difficult to implement national measures across the industry.

And for the outsourcing and healthcare fat cats, their primary concern is always how much profit they can pocket.

Council bosses in England have committed to paying private care providers an extra 10 percent to soak up additional costs incurred during the pandemic.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said, “Our own findings make it clear that a 10 percent increase will not be sufficient.

“There is a real danger that this is too little, too late, and there simply isn’t time to go cap in hand in the weeks and months to come.”

Instead of care companies scrabbling around for cash to keep homes running, they should be brought back into public ownership and properly funded. 

Scrapping for-profit homes would improve the lives of those working in them, and give the best care to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.


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