Older people are 'airbrushed out' of Covid-19 death figures, charity says

14 April 2020, 06:50

13 patients have died at the Burlington care home in North Lanarkshire
13 patients have died at the Burlington care home in North Lanarkshire. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Around half of the deaths from Covid-19 occur in care homes according to data from five European countries collected in a new study.

The data shows 42-57 per cent of all deaths linked to coronavirus were among residents of care homes.

The news comes a day after 92 care homes around the UK reported outbreaks of Covid-19 in a single day.

Researchers based at the London School of Economics have studied the outbreak in Italy, Spain, Ireland, Belgium and France.

Industry bosses in the UK have claimed daily death tolls are "airbrushing out" hundreds of older people who've died in the care system.

Care England has estimated there have been nearly 1,000 deaths from coronavirus in care homes, and, separately Baroness Altmann wrote in the Daily Mail that aged care residents who are refused hospital treatment are "being abandoned like lambs to the slaughter".

The International Long Term Care Policy Network (LTCPN) report suggested that the clearest snapshot of coronavirus mortality in care homes came from Ireland, as there was a centralised system to collect information relating to Covid-19.

As of Saturday, there had been 6,444 cases of Covid-19 and 288 deaths, of which 156, or 54 per cent, were care home residents.

Care England, an industry body representing independent care homes, fears that 1,000 residents could have died from the virus and says even more "unrecorded deaths" could have been "swept under the carpet".

The worst-hit care home is currently thought to be Burlington Court in Glasgow, where 16 residents are reported to have died.

Over the weekend it was confirmed that 13 residents at a care home in County Durham died after suffering coronavirus symptoms.

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Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said around 13.5 per cent of care homes in the UK have registered an outbreak and said he would like to see an uplift in testing.

Asked if deaths are being recorded properly in such settings, he said: "Everybody who sadly dies, the doctor will make an assessment based on her or his view about what the cause of death is, that's what the death certificate says in all cases.

"Doctors take it very seriously and try to make sure that they get as much information to give accurate data.

"One of the things we want to do is to extend the amount of testing of people in care homes as the ability to test ramps up over the next few weeks.

"Because clearly care homes are one of the areas where there are large numbers of vulnerable people and that is an area of risk and therefore we would very much like to have much more extensive testing."