• Why Covid-19 Deaths in Care Homes remains a mystery.

    With the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK reported daily, it was recently revealed that the figure only included deaths that occurred in hospital.

    Although Covid related deaths in care homes are now included these numbers are 2 weeks out of date, there are calls for more recent or even daily figures to be made available.

    The problem is, I’m not sure they can be.

    The Office for National Statistics use data from a Death Certificate, hence the 2 week delay in their availability. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) however receive notifications of deaths from care homes directly using a number of processes.

    In November 2017 I submitted a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the CQC asking for figures on the number of deaths from choking that occurred in care homes in England.

    They couldn’t, citing reasons of cost arising from the time it would take to collate the information. Subsequently I tried to find out what information was available at what level.

    Turns out, not at lot.

    Due to the way the information is collated by the CQC often via email, paper forms or fax and with information stored locally there was no way to look at anything on a larger scale.

    In December 2017 I wrote to the then Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC with my concerns and highlighting the significant opportunities being missed.

    I received a very long response 2 months later in January 2018 from Andrea Sutcliffe which explained how the CQC record and structure data from notifications.

    However it didn’t actually answer any of the questions I’d asked and so I wrote back, this time being more specific. Extract below.

    I again received reply from Andrea Sutcliffe in February 2018 which this time confirmed there are limitations in the process with plans being considered for changes.

    A year ago in April 2019 the CQC advised care providers there would be some Additional prompts added to some Statutory Notifications forms which they would find when downloading the new word document before emailing it over when submitting a notification including death and the cause.

    Last Thursday 9th April the CQC issued an updated Regulation 16 – Death Notification Form for care providers. The previous form did not include a provision for suspected Covid-19 deaths.

    The new form however includes boxes for both suspected and confirmed Covid-19 deaths. Prior to this, care providers could not notify the CQC of death related to Covid-19 other than write it in a Notes box.

    The current process for reporting a death requires the care home to email a word document to the CQC, for someone at the CQC to receive it, open it, and then process the form manually into a system of sort some. We assume.

    Regardless, I doubt we will arrive at a figure anywhere near what is actually happening in care homes any time soon.

    Despite all the hard-work and ongoing commitment from all of those in the sector, I fear we will see more deaths in care homes either caused by or as a result of Covid-19 than anywhere else.

    Matt Oakley is the CEO @ DECHOKER UK