More than a third of care homes in England have reported an outbreak of coronavirus

Matilda Long
·4-min read
Staff and residents at Anchor�s Millfield care home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, during a day of events to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Staff and residents at Anchor's Millfield care home in, Greater Manchester, celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Downing Street said today that 5,889 care homes had seen a suspected outbreak of symptomatic or confirmed COVID-19 as of 17 May. (PA Images)

More than a third of care homes in England have reported outbreaks of coronavirus, Downing Street confirmed on Monday.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said 5,889 care homes had seen a suspected outbreak of symptomatic or confirmed COVID-19 as of 17 May.

The number amounts to 38% of care homes in England.

Some 12,526 care home residents have died from COVID-19, according to the most recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

According to the ONS report, between 2 March and 1 May 2020, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in male care home residents, accounting for 30.3% deaths.

It was the second leading cause of death in female care home residents, after Dementia and Alzheimer disease, accounting for 23.5% of deaths.

The government is coming under growing pressure over the coronavirus crisis in care homes, with accusations of a lack of support for the sector increasing.

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Ministers are accused of failing to supply sufficient PPE or tests for the sector, and for allowing infected patients to be released from hospitals into care homes.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday the government had “big lessons” to learn on the issue.

He said “significant steps” had been taken to improve the situation, but the it remained a “challenge”.

“We are still living through this pandemic and there will be lessons to be learned,” he said.

“There will be a point in the future when all of us can look back and reflect and make sure we have learned the appropriate lessons.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock came under fire last week after claiming the government had “tried to throw a protective ring” around care homes “right from the start” of the pandemic.

Director of research at The Alzheimer's Society, Fiona Carragher, said last week there is a 'tragically high' number of people dying in care homes.

She said: “Sadly, devastation continues in care homes with more than three times the usual number of deaths than average reported clearly showing the cost of not putting social care on an equal footing with the NHS.

“We need to know why the death toll in care homes remains so high in addition to coronavirus-reported deaths. 70 per cent of care home residents have dementia and we’re deeply concerned that this indicates an increase in deaths due to dementia, caused by isolation and reduction in care workers.

Dawn, a support staff member from Elite Care wears PPE (personal protective equipment) as she tends to her client Tina during a home visit in Scunthorpe, northern England on May 8, 2020. - Tina has multiple complex needs as she suffers with Multiple Sclerosis and is considered in the high risk category during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Home support staff members are an essential key worker service to those with disabilities stranded at home under the lockdown, providing specialist care and human kindness. Dawn has worked with Tina for seven years and although Tina's disabilities limit her outdoor recreation, she misses most of all hers and Dawn's visits to the local park for their weekly latte drink. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP) (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)
Downing Street has confirmed that four in ten care homes in England now have reported cases of coronavirus (Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

“Each of these deaths is a heart-breaking loss to their friends, families and carers which is why the Government must honour their commitment to ensure care homes get testing for all residents and staff and the protective equipment they need.

“We now approach our third month of lockdown, still with a tragically high number of care home deaths.”

Care UK, which operates 122 private care homes, said on Monday it was dealing with at least one Covid-19 case in 71% of its facilities and had lost 586 residents to the disease so far.

The death toll in English care homes from coronavirus is 12,409 up to 1 May, according to the Office of National Statistics, but an additional 10,000 deaths above the five-year average are unaccounted for, leading to concern the actual Covid-19 death toll among the most vulnerable could be far higher.

Following criticism at Prime Minister's Questions of the government's care home response, Boris Johnson pledged £600 million to help care homes with coronavirus "infection control".