‘Staggering’ 60,000 extra deaths in private homes since UK lockdown began

Ian Jones, PA
·3-min read

About 60,000 extra deaths have taken place in private homes in the UK since lockdown began a year ago, new analysis suggests.

Extra deaths – known as “excess deaths” – are the number of deaths above the average for the corresponding period in the non-pandemic years of 2015-19.

But while Covid-19 has been the main driver of excess deaths in hospitals and care homes over the past year, the virus has accounted for only a minority of the extra deaths in homes.

The analysis has been compiled by Hospice UK and the PA news agency, based on data from the UK’s statistics agencies.

It shows that 52,105 excess deaths in private homes have been registered in England and Wales since the week ending March 27 2020, while 6,485 have been registered in Scotland since the week beginning March 23.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

The latest available figures for Northern Ireland show 1,338 excess deaths took place in private homes from April to December 2020.

Together, this adds up to a UK-wide total of 59,928 – though because data for Northern Ireland from January 2021 onwards has yet to be published, this is likely to be an underestimate.

Dominic Carter, head of advocacy for Hospice UK, said: “A year to the day since the UK was first sent into lockdown, we have seen 60,000 excess deaths at home – that’s more than 1,000 additional people dying in their homes every week, compared to pre-Covid-19 times.

“It is a staggering number, and worth noting that fewer than 8,000 of these were due to Covid-19.

“Hospice UK’s Dying Matters campaign has found that very little is known about these people’s experience of dying, and whether they had the right care and support – an issue that must be addressed.”

Deaths in private homes have been consistently well above the 2015-19 average since April 2020.

Even during the summer and early autumn of 2020, when few lockdown restrictions were in place across the country, excess deaths in private homes in England and Wales remained above average by between 700 and 900 a week, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

During January and early February 2021, with full lockdown restrictions reintroduced across the UK, this number climbed to about 1,200 to 1,300 a week.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

In Scotland the number remained above average by about 80 to 100 a week last summer and in early autumn, but rose above 150 in late January and early February, according to figures from the National Records of Scotland.

Analysis published last year by the ONS found that deaths in private homes in England for males from heart disease, from the start of the coronavirus pandemic through to early September, were 26% higher than the five-year average, while prostate cancer deaths had increased 53%.

For women, deaths in private homes from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had increased 75%, while deaths from breast cancer were up 47%.

“Research shows a common preference for people to be in their own home when they die.

“But our concern is the huge surge in deaths at home, which continues even as hospital deaths reduce,” Mr Carter added.

“At Dying Matters, we are worried about the capacity of the health and social care system to respond to this changing need, as the sector continues to be stretched to its limit.

“What we do know is that even before the pandemic, there has been a longer-term shift towards more people dying at home.

“We must, therefore, make sure that both society and the health and social care system are ready to adapt.”