LONDON — Two of the largest operators of care homes in the U.K. said on Tuesday that 521 residents have died from coronavirus in recent weeks.
As of 8.p.m Monday, 311 deaths from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 were reported in HC One care homes. The firm, Britain’s largest care home operator, has reported outbreaks in two-thirds of its 350 homes. Another company, MHA, reported 210 deaths across 131 homes, with outbreaks in about half of its facilities.
David Behan, non-executive director of HC One, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program that COVID-19 deaths made up “about a third of all deaths that we’ve had over the past three weeks. So this isn’t just an issue of deaths from COVID-19 … this is a very frail group of older people and we’d normally have a number of deaths taking place throughout the winter months and we’re also dealing with that as well.”
Deaths in care homes, however, are not being included in the government’s death tolls, which only cover deaths of people who tested positive and died in National Health Service hospitals.
Data from the Office for National Statistics published Tuesday put the death toll from COVID-19 in England and Wales at 6,235 for the week ending April 3. When looking at data just for England, that is 15 percent higher than the coronavirus death toll published by the NHS (because the ONS figures include all mentions of COVID-19 on the death certificate, including suspected COVID-19 and deaths not in hospitals).
Asked why deaths in care homes are not being included in the government’s data, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC: “I think that the certification by doctors is happening regularly, that is being collated by the ONS and it is being published weekly by the ONS.”
“I think that is a fair system of getting that picture, that unfortunate picture, across the country of where deaths are happening due to coronavirus and I think that is a trustworthy way to go about this by the medical certificates signed off by doctors.”