A total of 4040 people may have died of this illness within UK residential and nursing services before 13th April according to the National Care Forum.
These, say the Forum, are not showing in the government’s daily tracking of COVID deaths.
“All attention has been on tracking deaths and flattening the peak in hospitals, with no data driven focus on how this virus is attacking our most vulnerable communities in our care homes. Until we understand this, we should not be contemplating an exit strategy from the current lockdown, or we risk the lives of the most vulnerable.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, says:
“This data is revelatory in many ways. Quite simply, so long as groups such as residents in care services are omitted from the real-time national reporting on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the government will surely be unable to properly plan for how to protect its people or exit this crisis. The public also deserves to understand how this virus is impacting their communities, so they can continue to play their part in safeguarding the health of our nation and the most vulnerable amongst us.
Our current national debate on how to mitigate and exit this crisis is virtually entirely centred on the management of the peak within hospitals. We are overlooking how this crisis is playing out in other settings, which are there to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impact of the virus. If we truly believe that every life has value, there can be no meaningful discussions about exit strategies without considering these individuals.
The figure of more than 4000 people passing away of COVID-19 within care homes in little more than one month is devastating. Every death is a loss and a tragedy. It is even more worrying to see a virtual doubling of deaths within homes in just one week, clearly indicating that whilst all attention has been on managing the peak in hospitals, the virus has attacked our most vulnerable communities. Care providers need to be given every ounce of support from government to protect the vulnerable people they care for and the health of their workforce, but to date this has not been forthcoming.
By highlighting the scale of the tragedy, we are giving the government an opportunity to respond with equal effort. It must act immediately and build a ‘ring of steel’ around care homes. They need the right PPE equipment, medical monitoring devices, rapid and comprehensive testing, proper funding and intensive research to safeguard the people they care for.
These services have desperately strived to continue to care for their residents in their home throughout the crisis, and in doing so helped maintain capacity within the NHS. We need to ensure that proper support is provided now to sustain our essential care services now and for the future.
This virus is not going away, so this has to be a wake up call to government and society as a whole to recognise that the ‘whatever it takes’ mantra has to be applied equally to the most vulnerable in social care, as we have to the NHS.
We also need to appreciate that these devastating figures would be much higher were it not for the bravery, talent and commitment of the social care workforce. Despite the tremendous skill and accountability of their roles, funding for care providers dictates that frontline workers are almost exclusively on, or near, minimum wage salaries. This should be a matter of national shame and we hope that their heroism illustrates how this must be fixed for the future.”