There have been more than 5,000 deaths linked to Coronavirus in English care homes, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics and Care Quality Commission with experts warning the numbers of deaths may not yet have reached their peak.
The ONS and CQC have been collecting the number of deaths reported in care homes since the epidemic began, amid concerns the virus has become entrenched in care homes.
According to its latest statistics published today the ONS said there had been a total of 2,906 deaths involving Covid-19 in English care homes up to 17 April.
The latest data from the CQC shows an additional 2,375 Covid-19 related care home deaths between 18 April to 24 April, bringing the total to 5,281.
On its website the ONS also revealed the number of deaths in England alone, registered by 25 April had reached 21,284.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said the latest data also revealed 5,000 excess deaths in the community that were not listed as Covid-19 compared to the five year average.
He said: "I would not like to say there has been a peak in care homes and care homes are running at about 300 or 400 deaths a day. Given what we saw with English hospitals running at about 450 deaths at the end of last week, I would push my neck out and say it is plausible that there are now as many Covid-19 labelled deaths occurring out of hospital as in in hospitals in England."
Earlier in the outbreak as part of efforts to free up NHS beds, care homes were told they would have to take hospital patients even if they tested positive.
Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and a practising GP, said he could not understand the clinical reason for that and warned care homes may have been "seeded" with coronavirus.
"The nature of this disease shows that it is very hard to eradicate in areas where you've got active transmission. I suggest it will be very hard to eradicate it from nursing homes.
"There has to be a clear message to hospitals that nobody with active infection should be discharged from a hospital into a nursing home."
He described Covid-19 in care homes as a "perfect storm" with staff having only poor quality protective equipment leading to a "cascade" of infections.
"It is incredibly important not to seed the infection in there, ie to put a patient from a hospital into a nursing home with active infection. I just cannot think of a clinical or medical reason why, anybody would do that. It's incredibly important to understand the vulnerability of people in nursing homes."
Data from Public Health England last week showed more than 650 care homes were now declaring outbreaks of coronavirus.
The ONS said the number of overall deaths in care homes up to 17 April was 7,316; this is 2,389 higher than a week before and almost double the number to April 3 and almost triple the number registered at the end of March.
The ONS said there were 22,351 deaths registered in England and Wales, an increase of 3,835 deaths compared with the previous week and 11,854 more than the five-year average; this is the highest weekly total recorded since 1993.
A total of 21,284 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in England between 28 December and 17 April, the ONS said with 1,016 deaths for Wales.
The new data shows the number of Covid-19 related deaths as a proportion of all deaths is rising.
Of the deaths registered in the week to 17 April, 8,758 mentioned “novel coronavirus (Covid-19)” somewhere on the death certificate, which is 39 per cent of all deaths registered that week, up from 6,213, or 34 per cent in the previous week.
In London, over half, 56 per cent, of deaths registered to April 17 involved Covid-19.
The North West and North East regions also had a high proportion of coronavirus deaths, with 42 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.
There were 14,796 deaths linked to coronavirus in hospitals.
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