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The number of Covid-19-related deaths occurring in settings outside of hospitals will be reported by the government on a daily basis for the first time from today, ministers have said.
The announcement, made yesterday by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, follows concerns that the severity of the impact of the crisis on care homes was being overlooked.
“It will help inform the judgments we make as we work to keep people safe”
The government has faced criticism for only including figures from hospitals in its daily count on deaths from Covid-19.
The Office for National Statistics, supported by the Care Quality Commission, has been filing in the gaps in its weekly reports on notified deaths, but this data is subject to a lag of up to 11 days.
Following calls from health leaders, Mr Hancock announced last night that the government would be introducing a new system for reporting information on Covid-19 deaths.
From today, the daily announcement will cover the whole of the UK, showing the number of deaths across all settings, whether they are in hospital, in a care home or elsewhere in the community.
The data will include anyone who has died and tested positive for Covid-19.
Speaking at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said he wanted to make sure there was “as much transparency as possible” around data related to the coronavirus crisis.
“And so, from tomorrow, we will be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospital each day, but the number of deaths in care homes and in the community too,” he said. “This is something that wasn’t previously possible.
“This will supplement the ONS and CQC weekly publication, and all add to our understanding of how the virus is spreading day by day and it will help inform the judgments we make as we work to keep people safe.”
Among the leading voices who had been calling for this change was Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector.
Reacting to the news, Mr Dickson, a former Nursing Times editor, said: “We have consistently called on the government to recognise that care homes and community care are integral to our health and care system.
“We are pleased that the government has heeded our calls on this and will publish figures on the people who have died with coronavirus outside of hospitals on a daily basis.
“We are pleased that the government has heeded our calls on this”
“This is so that we have a full picture of the impact of the pandemic and can ensure that no one feels their loved ones are being treated like a second-class citizen.”
The latest data from the ONS on notified deaths was published earlier on Tuesday covering the period up until the week ending 17 April.
The figures showed deaths in care homes in England and Wales from all causes have almost tripled since the start of the pandemic, from 2,471 to 7,316.
Deaths linked to Covid-19 have been rising steeply week by week since first cases were recorded in the week ending 20 March.
The latest weekly total of deaths from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 was 2,050 – a rise from 826 in the previous week, and 195 the week before that.
Meanwhile, over the course of the pandemic, social care deaths unrelated to the virus have more than doubled, according to the ONS.
The stark figures have led to demands for more support for the sector during the crisis and for the divide between social care and the NHS to be abolished going forward.
Among those who have spoken out is Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council and formerly chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC.
In a statement, Ms Sutcliffe said: “This pandemic has exacerbated the many issues that care homes, social care nursing and community services were already battling – including high vacancies, increased demand and the impact of a fragmented, disconnected system.
“It’s clear that social care is just as much the frontline of Covid-19 as the NHS. The contribution of nurses and nursing associates working in social care is critical and the right support and recognition are absolutely vital.”