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Care home virus cases up 600% in a week as dozens die with disease

PUBLISHED: 16:47 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 20:03 28 April 2020

Dozens of people have died with Covid-19 in Suffolk care homes (stock image) Picture: JOHN STILLWELL/PA WIRE

Dozens of people have died with Covid-19 in Suffolk care homes (stock image) Picture: JOHN STILLWELL/PA WIRE

Dozens of people have died from coronavirus-related infections at Suffolk’s care homes in just two weeks, new figures show, with more than 350 cases detected.

One in three deaths – 58 out of a total 182 – registered at the county’s care homes in the two weeks to April 24 were linked to Covid-19, new Care Quality Commission (CQC) data reveals.

That’s compared with 79 Covid-19 related deaths in Essex care homes, and 31 in Norfolk.

Suffolk County Council officials said they knew of 363 virus-related cases across 69 care home providers as of this afternoon – a seven-fold increase on the 50 reported last week.

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Union leaders representing care home staff in East Anglia said a “huge number of hidden deaths” had emerged in the latest data – describing the government’s approach as “chaotic”.

Yet Downing Street insisted it acted to prevent the spread of coronavirus within care homes in the early stages.

“Carers in homes and the community have been massively let down,” said Unison’s acting regional secretary Tim Roberts.

“There’s still widespread confusion among workers and their employers over what equipment they should have and huge problems getting it in the first place.

“It leaves carers terrified they’ll contract the virus or help spread it to other service users.

He added: “The government has got to get its act together if we are to prevent more lives being needlessly lost.”

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The CQC began collecting data from care homes on whether a death was linked to suspected or confirmed Covid-19 on April 10.

Beccy Hopfensperger (bottom left), adult care cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, said the authority lobbied government to get care homes PPE Pictures: ULTIMATE CARE UK/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOBeccy Hopfensperger (bottom left), adult care cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, said the authority lobbied government to get care homes PPE Pictures: ULTIMATE CARE UK/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

This step was taken to paint a clearer picture of the death toll.

Kate Terroni, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “Every death in today’s figures represents an individual tragedy for those who have lost a loved one – and for those who cared for them.

“We will continue to support care home managers as they do everything they can to keep people safe, but it is clear that more support is needed, from every part of the system, as social care staff go to extraordinary lengths to protect those in their care.”

The new source of data comes alongside the Office for National Statistics (ONS)’s weekly release, which records the number of coronavirus-related deaths occurring outside hospital.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson resumes working after spending two weeks recovering from Covid-19 Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson resumes working after spending two weeks recovering from Covid-19 Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

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Up to April 17 (and including deaths registered up to April 25) the ONS said there were 26 such deaths in Suffolk. Of these, 18 took place in care homes, seven were in private homes and one happened elsewhere. The equivalent figure for hospital deaths over this period is 129.

It is important to note the ONS’s figures report deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate, while the CQC’s data relies on providers stating whether the virus was suspected or confirmed.

Suffolk’s adult social care boss Rebecca Hopfensperger previously said care homes were “doing all they can” in “upsetting times”.

Unison representatives before they laid two wreaths for key workers in the fight against Covid-19 Picture: Tom Wilkinson/PA WireUnison representatives before they laid two wreaths for key workers in the fight against Covid-19 Picture: Tom Wilkinson/PA Wire

She added: “I want to reassure people that care providers are doing everything that they can to reduce the spread of infection where this arises and they are continuing to care for their residents with kindness and professionalism.”

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We set out a strategy for care homes in the early stages of the pandemic and offered detailed advice on how to stop the spread of coronavirus within care homes and also how to stop it from getting inside care homes in the first place.

“We’ve also been providing PPE from the very early stages of the pandemic. The health secretary recently published an updated care home strategy.

“I think we want to do all we can to support those living and working in care homes at what we accept is an enormously difficult time.”

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