The number of people who died of the coronavirus in care homes England doubled in just five days this month, according to regulators.
In a bombshell statement issued today the Care Quality Commission said it expects a ‘significant increase’ in the official number of care home deaths next week.
Only 975 nursing home fatalities were recorded by the Office for National Statistics up to April 10 – 10 per cent of the total deaths up to that point.
But the CQC, which now urges homes to record suspected COVID-19 victims as well those confirmed with lab tests, said about the same amount were recorded in just a five-day window between April 11 and 15, suddenly doubling the total to around 2,000.
The surge chimes with a report published in Scotland today which revealed one in three coronavirus deaths in the country are happening in nursing homes and aren’t being counted in the government’s daily hospital figures.
National Records of Scotland’s report pushed the total number of victims there to 1,616 for the period up to April 19, with 537 of them happening in homes.
A shocking report from the National Records of Scotland has revealed that 44 per cent of COVID-19 deaths are happening outside of hospitals and a third of them are taking place in hospitals
The numbers of people dying with the coronavirus in care homes have soared since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started recording them in mid-March.
In the week ending March 20, two residents died; this rose to 20 the week after that, 187 the following week and 768 between April 4 and April 10.
The Department of Health and CQC warned in a joint statement today that this number will spike even higher next week.
The total number of those four weeks is expected to double to 1,950, and rise even higher, when the next week’s data is published next Tuesday.
A joint statement read: ‘Issues with the completeness and consistency of this data meant that the number of COVID-19 deaths being reported did not match what CQC was hearing anecdotally from providers…
‘The ONS data published yesterday covers the period until 10 April. CQC’s current preliminary analysis is up to 15 April.
‘It is anticipated that the number of deaths in care homes relating to COVID-19 reported by providers between 11 April and 15 April could be double the number of care home deaths reported yesterday .
‘In common with the ONS, CQC’s preliminary analysis also indicates there may be a significant rise in non-COVID-19 deaths.
‘This is of particular concern and we will be exploring the factors that may be driving this with local authorities, adult social care trade associations, Public Health England, NHS England – to ensure timely action is taken to safeguard people.’
The warning statement came after devastating statistics in Scotland showed that care home deaths have increased the country’s fatality count by 79 per cent.
Figures compiled by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show 1,616 COVID-19 fatalities were recorded by April 19.
Of these, 537 (33 per cent) were in care homes. The majority – 910 (56 per cent) had occurred in hospitals, the report said, and those were the ones reported publicly.
It meant that around 44 per cent of deaths occur outside of hospitals, raising more questions about the UK’s true death toll.
The daily numbers announced by the Department of Health and devolved governments only include hospital deaths, so show only a fraction of the true crisis.
If the same percentage – 44 per cent outside of hospitals – was applied to the UK’s overall toll it would suggest the true number of deaths is around 25,000.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today said elderly people in care should get the same ‘if not more’ support during the pandemic.
Addressing the figures, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘It’s not unusual for people to become sick in care homes, residents are often frail and nearing the end of their lives.
‘But that does not mean that we consider any of these cases to be inevitable or that we don’t do everything we possibly can to prevent them.
Ms Sturgeon also claimed that 35 per cent of Scotland’s care homes – 384 homes – currently have an outbreak of coronavirus – down from 40 per cent last week.
The NRS figures also showed a 76 per cent gap between the true number of deaths and those recorded in hospital.
Separate figures published by officials in Northern Ireland today showed around 300 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in care homes there.
The British Government has been accused of leaving nursing homes ‘badly in the lurch’ by former Labour minister, Lord Peter Hain.
The Office for National Statistics, which releases data once per week and counts deaths that happen outside of hospitals, already outstrip NHS statistics by at least 41 per cent
Lord Hain criticised the Government’s lack of testing during a virtual House of Lords question time session.
The 70-year-old peer said: ‘How on earth is the Government going to lift restrictions without universal testing, especially in care homes where there is virtually no such capacity at all?’
He said there was not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) in care homes and charity providers are being forced to spend their own money on it.
‘The Government needs urgently to give billions more to care homes instead of leaving them so badly in the lurch during this crisis,’ he said.
Baroness Margaret Wheeler, also a member of the Labour Party, said there had been reports of an ‘alarming increase’ in care home deaths, with estimates of more than 6,000 fatalities above official figures.