UK care home inspectors did not ask about Covid-19 deaths until April

April, 2020
United Kingdom (England)

Care home inspectors only started asking if residents were dying from Covid-19 last Thursday, two and half weeks after the UK went into lockdown and a month after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, the Guardian can reveal.

Until 6 April, the Care Quality Commission did not ask for information on coronavirus deaths and only started doing so when it realised the information coming back was out of line with reports of a rising death toll.

Labour said the revelation was “extraordinarily worrying” as it emerged the CQC had previously admitted to shortcomings in how it gathers data about deaths in care.

The delay in asking for specific information about Covid-19 deaths may explain why official figures for deaths in care have so significantly understated reality. On Wednesday, Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of industry group Care England, said the virus has claimed at least 1,400 lives in care settings. Fifteen deaths were reported at a single care home in Wavertree, Merseyside, and eight at a home in Stowmarket in Suffolk.

Twenty-four hours earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were 217 deaths in all care homes in England and Wales up to 3 April, based on death certificates. CQC data, which should be delivered more promptly but is so far considered incomplete, has not yet been published.

By law, care homes must promptly report deaths to the CQC but until last week were not asked whether it was Covid-19 related. A tick box for confirmed or suspected coronavirus was only added the day before the Easter break, by which time more than 6,000 people had died from the virus in NHS hospitals and hundreds more in care homes.

The shadow minister for social care, Liz Kendall, said it was “extraordinarily worrying” that the CQC did not ask about Covid-19 until Easter “when we knew care homes in other countries have experienced very high levels of deaths”.

“The whole system should have moved much more quickly to find out what was happening to the most vulnerable people in society,” she said.

The CQC denied that it was a failure not to start asking for information about Covid-19 deaths earlier in the crisis.

Source: The Guardian