Care home deaths up 120% in Ipswich since coronavirus hit

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, is requesting information from Suffolk's hospit

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, is requesting information from Suffolk's hospitals over care home discharges Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Gregg Brown

Deaths at Ipswich care homes have leapt up by 118% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be revealed.

Our analysis of weekly deaths shows that fatalities in the town’s care and nursing homes have more than doubled in the 10 weeks to mid-May, compared with lower levels of deaths at the beginning of 2020.

There were 49 deaths across Ipswich’s 24 care homes during the first 10 weeks of 2020, which ran from January 1 to March 6 of this year – and that figure has soared to 107 in the second 10 weeks of the year, from March 7 to May 15. That’s the equivalent of five deaths per home.

MORE: We must find out why some areas have had so many care home deaths, says minister

Other areas such as West Suffolk and East Suffolk saw the number of care home deaths increase by smaller margins, going from 95 deaths to 133 (up 40%), and 168 to 266 respectively (up 58%).

Babergh recorded a 61% increase, with deaths rising from 59 to 95, while Mid Suffolk had an increase of 72%, going from 57 to 98 deaths.

MORE: How the coronavirus crisis unfolded in Suffolk’s care homes

Eight further coronavirus outbreaks in care homes across the county were confirmed by Public Health England yesterday – four in East Suffolk, two in Babergh and two in West Suffolk.

Ipswich and Mid Suffolk have battled outbreaks in at least 70% of care homes.

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By comparison, North Norfolk saw its care home death toll fall over the last 10 weeks, compared with the beginning of the year.

Colchester also recorded a smaller increase of 28%, going from 85 deaths to 109, while Tendring went up 49%, from 116 to 173.

The news comes as the health watchdog representing patients in Suffolk backed our call to publish data on coronavirus patients sent to care homes.

Healthwatch Suffolk is also asking our major hospitals how many people were discharged before new national guidance on testing was rolled out in mid-April.

163 people have died with coronavirus at Suffolk's care homes, according to the CQC Picture: DENISE

163 people have died with coronavirus at Suffolk's care homes, according to the CQC Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

This newspaper asked NHS England, and hospitals in Suffolk and Norfolk, for a breakdown of how many people were sent to care homes untested – but none of them provided local figures.

We have requested this information through the Freedom of Information Act.

OPINION: Why we can’t tell you how many coronavirus patients were sent to care homes locally

Andy Yacoub, Healthwatch Suffolk’s chief executive, said: “It is entirely plausible that Covid-19 positive patients have been discharged to care settings at a time when those care homes were not sufficiently equipped to manage the virus.

“Coronavirus testing was not widely available during the earlier period of the pandemic and there have been unhelpful delays in receiving test results.

“This means care homes have welcomed residents without necessarily having a full understanding of their Covid-19 status.

MORE: Is full testing of staff and residents being offered to Suffolk care homes?

“We will be requesting information from our acute hospitals in order that we can have a fuller understanding about discharge policy in Suffolk as it has been, and how it may change in the future.

“Particularly, we will seek to obtain more detail about the numbers of individuals that have been discharged, whether they were tested in advance and how services have followed up with patients to assess their ongoing needs.”

Hospital chiefs have said they were following national guidance when discharging patients.

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