For the first time since the pandemic began, the CQC have published the number of people who died in care homes with Covid-19 in England.

The figures reveal that more than 39,000 registered care home residents died between 10th April 2020 and 31st March 2021.

The highest number of deaths in a single care home was 44, with more than 30 deaths happening in 21 care homes across the country.

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The data also shows how the virus spread across the country. During the first wave, care homes in the North West suffered the most Covid-related deaths, while in the second wave, the South East was the hardest hit.

The report has been published after the CQC came under increasing pressure from families to release the data. The report states they are now publishing the report as they have a “duty to be transparent and to act in the public interest.”

The regulator says publishing the data during the peak of the pandemic “could have a serious impact on continuity of care, with concerns people could use it to make decisions that inadvertently put people at wider risk if they were considering the data as a single indicator of safety.”

Deaths are not a reliable quality indicator

The CQC say that death notifications are not a reliable indicator of quality or safety of individual care homes and other factors must be taken into consideration. Such factors include: rates of local community transmission; size of the care home; and characteristics of people living in the care home, including their age, health and care needs whether they are from Black and minority ethnic groups.

The report clearly states that number of deaths are only one indicator which might lead to an inspection, with most inspections triggered by information of concern, including safeguarding referrals, whistleblowing and complaints.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the CQC carried out 5,577 inspections of residential adult social care providers, stating most of these were triggered by such information rather than death notifications.

It is also important to note that the published figures include deaths in hospitals, ambulances and other settings if the person was registered as a care home resident at the time.

In an accompanying report, the regulator explains that during the pandemic some care home residents were admitted to hospital with non-Covid related illnesses. However, if they contracted Covid-19 while in hospital and subsequently died without returning to the care home, their death would still be included in the figures. 

“Every number represents a life lost”

Principally, the report emphasises the importance of remembering that these statistics represent the lives of human beings with families.

Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “In considering the data, it is important to remember that every number represents a life lost, and families and friends who are having to face the sadness and consequences of their death. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the dedication of those who worked to save and comfort lives.”

She added: “We would ask for consideration and sensitivity to be shown to people living in care homes, families who have been affected, and staff working in very difficult circumstances.”