A leading doctor has warned that the COVID-19 crisis is creating an epidemic of loneliness after dozens of patients with the virus were found dead at home.
A report by the Guardian found that the patients died at home alone and weren’t discovered for two weeks.
Exactly how many people have died at home alone is not yet known, but all such cases have been referred to local coroners upon discovery.
The Guardian understands that several dozen such cases occurred in London between March and May, with inquests due to take place in the coming months.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, told the newspaper these deaths could be linked to the lockdown banning people from visiting each other and pushing people to avoid necessary NHS care.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is also creating an epidemic of loneliness, not just for older people, and sadly there are some people who will fall through the net,” he said.
“GPs are working hard to check on their patients who are shielding, and the NHS volunteers have been doing a good job of looking after vulnerable people in their communities.”
He added: “But we are noticing an increase in people dying in the community, often at home and often due to conditions unrelated to Covid-19, such as cardiac arrest.
“If people are choosing not to seek medical attention for non-Covid illnesses for fear of catching the virus, or because they are worried about being a burden on the NHS, then it is incredibly concerning.”
The news follows the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which show a major rise in deaths related to dementia, strokes and old age.
The ONS said one possible explanations for the rise in deaths could be a reluctance to seek care or a delay in receiving care.
“Delayed care could result from a reluctance to seek health care because of anxiety about exposure to COVID-19 or burdening the healthcare system, or it could result from overstretching of the healthcare system,” the department said.
“These could result in an increase in deaths from causes that can be quickly fatal without treatment if earlier symptoms are not treated. Such causes include ischaemic heart disease and other forms of circulatory disease, stroke, sepsis, meningitis, appendicitis, asthma and diabetes.”
Dr Jane Townson, CEO of United Kingdom Homecare Association, has also previously warned of unseen deaths occurring at home during the pandemic.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Dr Jane Townson said that while there has been substantial media attention on hospitals and care homes, her concern is that the “third scene in this unfolding tragedy” is in people’s own homes.
“[We fear for] people dying unseen because the home care workers that normally support them won’t be able to go anymore because the companies that they work for will go bust and family carers will be unable to cope.”