4,000 feared dead in care homes: Coronavirus death toll underreported

Lack of coronavirus testing in care homes is an ‘unfolding horror’ that could lead to tens of thousands of forgotten victims, experts warn – amid claims ‘hidden epidemic’ has already cost 4,000 lives

  • GPs are sometimes reluctant to write Covid-19 on death certificates and figures
  • The latest report from the ONS says that the virus killed 217 care home residents
  • Industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 dead
  • Campaigners and MPs warned of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives, experts warned last night. 

They believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.

GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write Covid-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales in the two weeks up to April 3. 

But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 

Retired NHS carer Dianne Harvey, pictured with late husband Peter, died in the hospital where she used to work, her family said. Mrs Harvey, 77, lived in the same care home as Reg Amison, and her family suspect that both of the pensioners caught coronavirus there

Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 

Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis. 

As it emerged that just 500 care home staff have been tested so far;  

  • The industry regulator was accused of going missing before finally saying it would start to count deaths; 
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak denied that care home victims had been forgotten; 
  • Two care home operators said they had already seen more than 500 deaths ; 
  • Officially-registered deaths in a single week reached the highest level on record. 
  • Another 778 fatalities in hospitals took the UK total past 12,000; 
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted a 35 per cent fall in GDP with two million thrown out of work; 
  • Doubts grew over the prospect of hitting the 100,000-a-day testing target as numbers fell; 
  • The Nightingale hospital in London was virtually empty over Easter; 
  • Some 20 suspected arson attacks were made against 5G phone masts; 
  • MPs will be able to question ministers from home using webcams when Parliament returns next week; 
  • Prosecutors were told to consider the impact on the justice system when deciding whether to charge a suspect; 
  • Experts warned many children could miss out on their MMR jab due to a reluctance to go to GP surgeries; 
  • Drugs giants GSK and Sanofi teamed up on a vaccine to roll out in mid-2021; 
  • Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, was reported to be the latest top figure to have had coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy. 

Care home nurse Elsie Sazuze ‘lost her life doing the job she loved’, a friend said yesterday

Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short – ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the dis – ease ravaging their sites. 

Ministers are coming under pressure to include care home deaths in the daily figures. 

Mr Sunak and public health officials faced a string of questions over the issue at a press briefing last night. 

Nicola Richards, 46, who runs Palms Row Healthcare, said she has been ‘pulled apart’ by the illness, which is tearing through her facilities

Organisations including the Alzheimer’s Society and Care England, which represents social care organisations, believe the care home death toll is being hugely under-played by a lack of tests. 

Sir David Spiegelhalter, a Cambridge University professor, highlighted emergency laws that enable doctors to certify deaths without being present and risking infection. 

Sir David said this meant they were less inclined to record the virus as the cause of death. 

Mike Padgham, of the Independent Care Group, which represents care homes and home care providers, said he believed the virus could already have claimed the lives of at least 4,000 residents. 

He based the figure on estimates that suggest the care home death toll is equal to about a third of the total deaths in hospitals as well as on care home deaths from other countries which he said would be no different to the UK. 

‘These people are in a very vulnerable group, they may have underlying condi – tions and they’re in close proximity so it’s being spread quicker,’ he said. 

‘We don’t think the Government are doing enough and now they’ve been caught out. They didn’t fix the roof on social care when the sun was shining and now it’s too late.’ 

Reg Amison passed away at the Bradwell Hall nursing home last month, after testing positive for the coronavirus

Official data showed the week ending April 3 was the deadliest since records began in 2005, with 16,387 fatalities recorded. A graph shows how the week compares to others since the start of 2020

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates there have been at least 2,500 deaths from care homes based on the latest ONS figures from yesterday. 

But this data is 11 days behind. The charity’s Sally Copley said: ‘It strikes us that these deaths from coronavirus are the iceberg, and the hospital figures just the tip. 

‘The evidence from Europe shows more than 40 per cent of all deaths relating to coronavirus occur in care homes.’ 

The Mail has compiled a figure of at least 951 care home deaths from officially confirmed fatalities by care home operators and local authorities or local media reports since the start of the outbreak. 

Martin Green of Care England said up to three quarters of care homes ‘had some element’ of coronavirus. 

Labour MP Peter Kyle MP said: ‘We need a dedicated minister of Cabinet level who will bang their fist on the table and shout from the rafters about the horrors unfolding in our care system.’

Matt Hancock vows to ramp up coronavirus testing in care homes to cover ALL staff and residents who have fallen ill

by Daniel Martin, Policy Editor for the Daily Mail 

Matt Hancock yesterday promised to dramatically ramp up coronavirus testing in care homes as it emerged barely 500 care workers have been tested so far. 

The Health Secretary pledged that all care home residents who show symptoms of the disease would receive a test.

And for the first time, everyone released from hospitals into care homes will be tested, even if they show no signs of coronavirus. 

Mr Hancock said all social care staff who need a test will now have access to one with the Care Quality Commission contacting all 30,000 care providers in the coming days. 

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured leaving No. 10 Downing Street after attending the daily Covid-19 Cobra meeting today 

‘I am deeply conscious that people in residential care are among the most vulnerable to coronavirus,’ he said.

‘We are doing everything we can to keep workers, residents and their families safe, and I am determined to ensure that everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one.’ 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak assured carers that they had not been forgotten amid mounting questions over why coronavirus deaths in care homes had not been included in the official daily statistics. 

Since tests for social care staff started at the weekend, only 505 have been screened. This compares with more than 47,000 for NHS staff and their families. Age UK said it was shocking that just one in 3,000 of the 1.5million care workers – including care home staff and home helps – had so far been tested. 

A file photo shows an elderly man sitting on a wheelchair alone. The Health Secretary has pledged that all care home residents who show symptoms of the disease will receive a coronavirus test

Christina McAnea of Unison, which represents care workers, said: ‘The virus is sweeping through care homes at a terrifying rate. Care workers are on the front line, tending to the most vulnerable people. These testing levels are pitiful and a dramatic increase is urgently needed for everyone’s sake.’ 

Yesterday the PM’s spokesman said: ‘We are now using some of the available capacity to allow social care workers to be tested if they were concerned they had coronavirus symptoms and 505 social care workers have now been tested,’ he said. ‘That scheme has only very recently begun.’ 

The spokesman said it was unfair to compare the number of people being tested with the total number of social care workers. 

He said: ‘The key point is these are tests which are available for people who have symptoms or are concerned they have coronavirus.’ 

But critics said the number of tests being carried out was nowhere near enough. Liz Kendall, Labour’s social care spokesman, said: ‘These are shocking figures. The Government urgently needs to get a grip on the emerging crisis in social care. Millions of elderly people up and down the country rely on the vital service that care workers provide.’ 

Age UK’s Caroline Abrahams added: ‘We know now that only some 500 social care staff have been tested so far and there are almost one and a half million still to go. This is a total disaster because it means that sadly, the social care system is going to have to fight the virus for the foreseeable future without generally knowing who has had it and is “safe”, and who hasn’t and is still at risk.’ 

She added: ‘The problem is this leaves care providers “flying blind”, increasing the risk to older people and care workers alike that they will become infected. 

Testing is carried out yesterday at Leeds Temple Green Park and Ride, part of the government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS workers 

‘It may also lead to some care workers self-isolating unnecessarily, piling pressure on other members of staff. Any hope that testing would save the day for social care as it confronts the deadly coronavirus has unfortunately been dashed.’ 

Speaking yesterday, Mr Sunak said: ‘I would say to all those people working in care homes up and down the country, whether it’s the people in them or the people looking after them – you absolutely haven’t been forgotten. When we clap every week we are clapping for people everywhere who are caring.’ 

Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, admitted the French and UK coronavirus figures are different because the French figures include care homes. 

Heartbreaking reports from the front line: Amid fears the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes is much higher than official statistics suggest, relatives of four victims reveal the agony of their loss

by Daniel Martin, Policy Editor for the Daily Mail 

Care home nurse Elsie Sazuze ‘lost her life doing the job she loved’, a friend said yesterday.

The 44-year-old self-isolated after showing symptoms of coronavirus but had to be taken to hospital and put on a ventilator as her condition deteriorated.

The married mother-of-two, pictured, died earlier this month at the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.

Her husband Kenneth, 45, said she had understood the risks of continuing her job after the coronavirus outbreak began but had wanted to carry on working.

Mrs Sazuze, who was originally from Malawi in Africa, trained and worked at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton before starting work at a care home in Cannock, Staffordshire.

Care home nurse Elsie Sazuze ‘lost her life doing the job she loved’, a friend said yesterday

Mr Sazuze, who is training to be a nurse, said he was not allowed to see his wife of 24 years after she was admitted to hospital. 

But she called him just before she was put on the ventilator. ‘She started telling me, “Ken, if I don’t come back, be strong, I love you, be strong for the kids”,’ he told the BBC.

‘I was like, “no, no, no, don’t tell me that. I don’t want you to start telling me that in a negative way… we will be all right.”

‘She said, “I’m just telling you in case”.’

She understood the risks of working on the front line but was happy to help people, he added.

Family friend William Fungatira said: ‘Elsie was a naturally quiet person but very caring, friendly, cheerful and resilient.

‘She had a passion to always help others. She was dedicated to helping people. It’s a great loss to all of us who knew her and, indeed, to the wider community because she lost her life doing the job she loved.’

 It’s been a harrowing and lonely battle with no help

The manager of three care homes where 11 residents have died from Covid-19 has said she is fighting a ‘harrowing and lonely’ battle against the virus.

Nicola Richards, 46, pictured right, who runs Palms Row Healthcare, said she has been ‘pulled apart’ by the illness, which is tearing through her facilities.

A quarter of the Sheffield homes’ 200 residents are infected, 30 staff have also tested positive and one nurse is in intensive care.

‘It’s another one and another one and another one’, she said. ‘I’m not getting to sleep. I’ve not switched off. I can’t describe the stress.’

Nicola Richards, 46, who runs Palms Row Healthcare, said she has been ‘pulled apart’ by the illness, which is tearing through her facilities

Mrs Richards said the mental health of her residents is deteriorating because they have to be kept in their rooms and can’t receive visitors.

‘How do you explain to elderly residents that their wife or daughter isn’t coming to see them today? I have residents crying because they can’t see their loved ones.

‘If we’ve got residents who are dying we’ve been told people can’t come and see them – only one visitor is allowed. It is soul-destroying.

‘They’re at the end of life and seeing workers in masks – it’s just so clinical.’

The mother-of-two added: ‘I’m trying to keep staff morale but it’s really tough …a lonely journey. I feel like I’ve had no support from the authorities. We have only had one PPE delivery. The lack of awareness has been something else.

‘Our elderly have been forgotten. It’s like we’re the bottom of the pecking order. I’ve got to hope lessons are learnt. It’s just been so dark.’

 Staff had begged the public to give masks

An 86-year-old great-grandfather died at a care home where managers had reported a shortage of face masks.

Reg Amison passed away at the Bradwell Hall nursing home last month, after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Days earlier the home in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, had appealed for donations of face masks from the public because its stocks were low and suppliers were unable to confirm delivery dates.

At least one member of staff has tested positive for the coronavirus and several others have gone into self-isolation.

Reg Amison passed away at the Bradwell Hall nursing home last month, after testing positive for the coronavirus

Mr Amison’s son Robert, 58, called on the Government to improve access to protective equipment and virus testing for care home workers.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘The staff had almost no equipment to stop the disease spreading.

‘I’m not blaming the home, they looked after my dad really, really well. But the Government should be ramping up testing, and frontline nurses and carers should get tested first.’

Mr Amison said it was ‘heart-breaking’ that he and his mother Dorothy, 83, (pictured with Reg) had not been able to visit his father before his death.

He said: ‘It’s one of the hardest things, to be told your dad is dying but you can’t go and sit with him and hold his hand. It broke our hearts not to be there.’

Bradwell Hall confirmed that one staff member had tested positive for the illness and was recovering at home, and others are self-isolating.

Residents who showed symptoms of Covid-19 were being kept isolated in their rooms and ‘barrier-nursed’ in line with national guidance, meaning staff must wear protective equipment, the home said.

Therapist died in hospital where she used to work

Retired NHS carer Dianne Harvey died in the hospital where she used to work, her family said.

Mrs Harvey, 77, lived in the same care home as Reg Amison, and her family suspect that both of the pensioners caught coronavirus there.

Mrs Harvey, pictured with her late husband Peter, was a retired NHS occupational therapist and had lived in Bradwell Hall for four years after she developed dementia.

Mrs Harvey, pictured with her late husband Peter, was a retired NHS occupational therapist and had lived in Bradwell Hall for four years after she developed dementia

The former Sunday School teacher and Scout leader was taken to the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Staffordshire after she became seriously ill with coronavirus. She failed to recover and died there.

Mrs Harvey had two sons, Paul and Roger, with her husband who was an ambulance driver.

Paul, 51, said: ‘She loved to help out in the local community every way she could.’

He added: ‘She was so selfless – always putting others above herself.’

 

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