Urgent action is needed to understand a rising number of deaths among people receiving care at home, the Health Foundation has said.
New analysis by the charity shows that while the absolute number of deaths reported in domiciliary care is smaller than in care homes, the proportional increase is greater.
By 19 June, the CQC had received notifications of a total of 819 COVID-19 deaths in domiciliary care, but deaths were rising among people receiving domiciliary care even before April 10.
Between March 23 and June 19, the number of death notifications to the CQC was 225% higher than the number of deaths seen in 2017-2019 – an estimated 4,500 additional deaths.
And although the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in domiciliary care has reduced over time, as of the end of June, excess non-COVID-19 linked deaths remained in excess of what has been reported in previous years.
The Health Foundation said understanding the reasons for these excess deaths where COVID-19 has not been recorded is critical.
Its report says that if these deaths are linked to COVID-19 infection, but not recorded as such, then it “raises questions about the adequacy of COVID-19 testing programmes in social care”.
The Health Foundation also notes that the CQC only collects information on deaths from registered and regulated organisations providing social care at home and in the community, therefore omitting individual self-employed carers.
This means that the CQC’s figures “significantly underestimated” the true impact of the pandemic on people receiving domiciliary care, the charity says.
The Health Foundation states that if deaths among home care service users have been correctly coded, and are linked to indirect effects of the pandemic, such as delayed access to health or care services, then this would mean that “urgent action is needed to address this unmet need”.
Tweeting about the report, UKHCA chief executive Dr Jane Townson said the findings are “unsurprising”, given that fewer people sought medical help during the pandemic and the lack of testing in home care.
At the end of April, Dr Townson expressed fears for vulnerable people with coronavirus dying unseen in their own homes.
“The death statistics don’t look good – 4,570 people are dying of all causes in their homes. The [ONS] data suggests about 20%, 883, are from COVID-19, but we honestly don’t know because no testing has been done,” she said.
The president of ADASS also warned in May of a rising number of deaths among people who receive home care, as they cancelled they care visits and failed to seek medical help out of feat they would catch coronavirus.