Thurrock councillor calls for more accurate coronavirus death toll figures

martin kerin

By Eric White

A THURROCK Councillor has called for more accurate coronavirus figures, after the BBC reported many older people are being “airbrushed” out of official death toll counts.

Councillor Martin Kerin, who represents the Grays Riverside ward, posted the following message on social media today (Tuesday 14th April):

“All victims of this cruel virus must be counted. Whether it’s in care homes or family homes, we must know the full extent of COVID-19.”

The BBC reported yesterday (Monday 13th April) the official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital – but not those in care homes or in their own houses.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC the daily figure was based on hospital deaths because “it’s accurate and quick”.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which include every community death linked to Covid-19 in England and Wales, showed a total of 406 such deaths registered up to 3 April had occurred outside of hospitals.

That would have added an extra 11% to the official UK figures, based solely on deaths in hospitals, that were being reported at that time.

Of those extra deaths, 217 took place in care homes, 33 in hospices, 136 in private homes, three in other communal establishments and 17 elsewhere.

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer has said details about the number of coronavirus-related deaths in care homes remain unclear, but it was reported last week that there were cases of Covid-19 in 20 care homes across the nation.

Industry leaders from Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.

They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.

It comes after the government confirmed there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England – although they did not specify the number of deaths that had occurred.

The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for elderly people.

“The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said.

England’s care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission, has said it will begin recording deaths in adult social care from this week – asking care providers to give daily updates on the number of confirmed and suspected cases.

The issue has regularly been raised by journalists at the daily Downing Street briefing and the government response has been that the number announced each day is based on hospital figures as this can be quickly gathered and analysed – whereas deaths in the wider community take much longer to be collated after death certificates are issued by doctors.

The government says it is following the international standard by quoting the hospital figures each day – and that the fuller ONS figures can lag many days behind.

The latest care homes to confirm residents have died with symptoms of the virus include a home in Drumchapel, Glasgow, a specialist dementia home in Selston, Nottinghamshire, and a home in County Durham where 13 residents have died.

The Department of Health’s official death number of deaths of people in hospital with coronavirus rose to 11,329 on Monday – up by 717 in a day.

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