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29 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Evening summary: “Fundamental and structural issues” with coronavirus response in care homes

By Samuel Horti

The government has, for the first time, included deaths outside of hospitals in its daily coronavirus data, and the new figures show the UK is on track to record a higher death toll than any other country in Europe. The 26,097 deaths recorded so far are less than every other country in Europe bar Italy, which is weeks ahead of the UK’s timeline.

Care homes account for the bulk of deaths outside of hospitals, and the death rate in care homes appears to be rising or holding steady, unlike in hospitals. Would a more comprehensive testing programme earlier in the pandemic have saved lives? It’s still too early to say, Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle said at this afternoon’s Downing Street coronavirus briefing, before adding that “there are possibly more fundamental and structural issues about how care homes are run in an epidemic that we are now looking to implement”.

She didn’t specify what those changes might look like (she mentioned that interactions between staff and residents differ between care homes) but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab later gave a hint when he said the government was considering moving some care home residents into hospitals to protect them. The suggestion, mentioned in a question from a member of the public, was “under review”, he said, and would be one way of utilising the NHS’s spare hospital capacity.

Earlier in the day, we learned that one in three English care homes have suffered an outbreak of Covid-19, that care home deaths in Scotland are exceeding deaths in hospitals for the first time, and that schools will open in a “phased” way once the lockdown is eased.

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