One vulnerable care home resident is dying from coronavirus every five minutes as the cash-strapped sites become the “true front line” in our battle against the pandemic.
Grim figures from the Care Quality Commission today revealed 4,343 deaths from April 10 to 24 in England alone – more than 300 a day.
Experts now believe more people are dying from the virus outside hospitals, casting doubt on Government claims the pandemic has peaked.
And it is feared more than 200,000 people could be living in care homes with confirmed or suspected cases.
The Independent Care Group’s Mike Padgham said: “Social care providers are now on the true front line in the fight against Covid-19.
“The Government must provide better support in terms of PPE, testing and finance so we can protect more people. These are our loved ones who have been taken from us early. They deserve better.”
Mr Padgham said “due to the lag” in the figures, the true toll is likely to be higher and may still be increasing.
And care home chiefs dismissed the PM’s claim that the virus has been “wrestled to the floor” as premature.
One of the biggest operators, HC-One, said it has suspected cases in two-thirds of its homes, while Care UK has them in three-quarters. One home near Wrexham lost nine out of 15 residents to suspected coronavirus in 10 days.
Boss Ricki Bibi said she believed a new resident they were unable to test but was considered “low risk” may have carried the virus into Manor Park Residential Home, in Holt.
In a home run by her RB Care Group in South Wales, 13 residents out of 34 died in a “short period … some with confirmed coronavirus, some with symptoms”. She said: “It has been heartbreaking.
“The staff are very close to the residents.”
Jenny Smith, of Westcliff Lodge Care Home in Essex, where nearly a third of residents have died in the pandemic, said: “We’re still trying to process the loss. We have many people off as well with suspected Covid, so we’ve been under tremendous pressure.”
But it is believed the true figure is even higher. Office for National Statistics figures show 2,000 Covid care home deaths in the week ending April 17 in England and Wales – double the previous week.
But the same week, there were a total 7,316 care home deaths compared with a long-term average of 2,154, meaning 5,000 more deaths in one week than expected.
A third of Covid deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland are believed to be in care homes. And Care England chief Professor Martin Green said this week he expects the true toll in the sector has passed 10,000.
No10 insists it is “working to give care homes the best possible support”.
Around 400,000 of our most vulnerable live in the sites, while another 800,000 get care in their own homes.
Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Social care is now the front line. We are also yet to see the peak of the stress on the social care system, due to the delay between hospital admissions and discharge.”
Before the pandemic hit, adult social care was already in crisis after a 38% fall in Government funding for local authorities, according to the TUC.
There were 120,000 vacancies and many more staff have been sick or isolating since the lockdown.
Nicola Richards, director of Palms Row Health Care in Sheffield, has lost 18 residents and 60 have Covid. She has 36 staff ill with the virus, 31 self-isolating and others on 12-hour shifts.
And she fears continuing funding problems in the “Cinderella sector” will hinder a response to any second spike.
She said: “The authorities are not learning the lessons of the first wave. The sector was woefully underfunded before Covid-19. This has put further pressure on a Cinderella sector.”