English care homes had highest excess deaths during COVID of all UK

Care homes in England experienced the highest increase in excess deaths at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to those in the rest of the UK, according to new research.

A University of Stirling study found that care homes in England recorded a 79 percent increase in excess deaths, compared to 66 percent in Wales, 62 percent in Scotland and 46 percent in Northern Ireland.

Of all deaths registered as COVID-19 related in the UK, 17,127 (31 per cent) occurred within care homes and at least 21,775 (40 per cemt) were accounted for by care home residents.

In Scotland, 47 percent of deaths attributed to COVID-19 occurred in care homes. This compares with 42 percent in Northern Ireland, 30 percent in England and 28 percent in Wales.

While Scotland had the highest proportion of care homes affected by COVID-19 and the highest proportion of care home deaths attributed to the virus, it had a lower proportion of excess deaths in these facilities compared to England and Wales. Northern Ireland had both the lowest share of care homes infected and the lowest level of excess deaths in care homes. This may reflect differences in testing practices and death registrations across the nations, the experts said.

The study also revealed significant gaps in the availability of data, including a lack of accurate and timely information on the transfers of patients from hospital and into care homes, and reliable data on the testing of residents and staff. It also identified an “erratic” testing strategy, constrained by the availability of tests.

England is the only UK nation that has released COVID-19 mortality data on those receiving care at home.

Co-author Elizabeth Lemmon, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “A crucial next stage for the analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in care homes will be to understand how the virus got into care homes in the first place. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the urgency of appropriately funding long-term care. This includes the need to develop robust data collection and infrastructure that will allow us to understand and meet the needs of those individuals receiving care across the UK, not only during a pandemic.”   

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