Care providers are worried the number of care and nursing home deaths from coronavirus could rise if lockdown restrictions are lifted too quickly.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed there were 2,423 care home deaths in England and Wales linked to Covid-19 registered in the week ending 1 May (week 18). This is down from almost 2,800 for the week before.
Despite the downward trend, Independent Care Group chair Mike Padgham said operators were ‘very conscious’ that death and sickness from coronavirus was still ‘frightening’.
He said: ‘Homes have to maintain lockdown restrictions, even though it might be frustrating for relatives and friends, because we are not through this yet, not by a long way.
‘It is good news that death rates appear to be falling and that the government is starting to ease lockdown measures. But as far as the situation in care and nursing homes is concerned, we have to stay as we are; otherwise we will get more and more deaths.’
The number of deaths in care homes (from all causes) for week 18 decreased 19% to 6,409. However, deaths involving Covid-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes rose to 37.8% compared with 35.3% in week 17.
Year-to-date deaths involving Covid-19 up to week 18, showed 8,312 occurred in care homes, 1,562 private homes and 386 in hospices.
On the ONS figures, Minister for Care Helen Whately, said: ‘It is a relief to see the number of deaths in care homes falling, but they sadly they continue to make up a significant proportion of coronavirus related deaths and our work is not done.
‘Supporting the social care sector through this pandemic has always been a priority, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure they have all they need to look after those in their care.’
On Monday, the ONS revealed 86 women and 45 men working in social care had died from Covid-19 up to 20 April.
Kathryn Smith, Social Care Institute for Excellence chief executive, said: ‘When the lockdown started and cases of Covid-19 increased, people were quite rightly worried for those working in the NHS. It appears that, in the first month or so of the pandemic, social care workers, despite putting their lives at risk and continuing to make a difference to people’s lives daily, were unfortunately a forgotten front line.
‘What was needed then and what’s needed now is consistent and continuous testing; and the provision of protective equipment with training on how to wear it.’
Whately said: ‘We continue to work night and day to give social care providers the best possible support and ensure they have the protection they need as quickly as possible, we’ve already made millions of items of PPE available across the social care system. Now we also have the capacity to deliver up to 30,000 tests a day to residents and staff in care homes for older people.’