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COVID-19 care home deaths continue to fall, but providers face ‘dreadful dilemma’ over reopening

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The occurrence of deaths in care homes related to COVID-19 has fallen for an eighth consecutive week.

The latest weekly analysis from the Office of National Statistics shows that care home deaths involving coronavirus decreased by 12.9% in England and Wales to 249.

CQC death notifications involving COVID-19 between 10 April and 26 June amounted to 12,211, of which 136 occurred in the week to 26 June.

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In the week to June 19, the proportion of deaths occurring in care homes decreased to 20.7% while deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 12.9%.

Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, welcomed the news that deaths and infection rates are falling in care homes, but warned that providers are now facing a “dreadful dilemma” as pressure mounts for them to open their doors to visitors.

He said that in light of a rise in coronavirus cases in Leicester, care home owners are “living in fear” of a second wave, and are calling on government guidance as to what to do next.

“We are delighted to see the death and infection rates in care and nursing homes continue to fall and of course would love to gradually open our doors and let our residents and their loved ones be back together. Many relatives are understandably asking ‘if we can go to the pub, why can’t we go and see our relatives?’

“We are also seeing care and nursing homes close and others enduring real financial hardship because of coronavirus costs and reduced admissions. This also increases the pressure to open up.

“But at the same time care providers are very nervous that this relaxation of lockdown restrictions will itself spark a second spike in coronavirus, which has already had a devastating impact upon care and nursing homes. We have seen what is happening in Leicester and the more restrictions are lifted and people, including care staff, return to more normal contact, the greater the risk of the virus being brought into a home again.

“It is a dreadful dilemma and we could really do with better guidance over what we do next.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “The latest ONS figures give cause for cautious optimism, but we must not be complacent. Care Home residents are at the highest risk from this virus, and so we must be ever vigilant and make sure the virus does not get into more Care Homes.

“The easing of lockdown will make people anxious to visit their relatives, and re-introducing visitors, must be done in a very sensitive and controlled way, to ensure that care home residents, their relatives, and staff, all remain safe.”

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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