There have been 10,000 extra deaths at home in the UK since June - here’s why

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 2:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 3:42 pm
There have been 10,000 extra deaths at home in the UK since June - here’s why (Photo: Shutterstock)
There have been 10,000 extra deaths at home in the UK since June - here’s why (Photo: Shutterstock)

There have been an additional 10,000 deaths in UK homes beyond the typical average, since mid-June, according to an analysis of the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

This suggests that, even after the initial peak of the pandemic had passed, many people have avoided seeking medical attention or care.

The figures for excess deaths are intended to show the number of people who have died beyond the expected amount, based on the average number of deaths that occurred in the previous five years.

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How many excess deaths have happened at home?

The total number of excess deaths occurring in people’s homes since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at more than 30,000. Figures show that of these, fewer than 10 per cent were due to coronavirus.

Speaking to the Guardian, David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, “In the most recent weeks we can exclude the fact that much of the excess mortality is due to Covid because infection is much lower.

“So what we see is probably more to do with decisions that are being taken by families, by individuals, their GPs and also hospitals’ willingness to admit.”

While the number of excess deaths over the past three months has, in general, been slightly lower than in previous years, the proportion and amount of those deaths happening in the home is significantly higher than usual, up by around 40 per cent on previous years.

What is causing this?

This might be partly attributable to people generally being at home more at the moment, even despite the relaxed lockdown measures since June. However, experts are concerned that a major driver behind the increase in deaths at home is the public’s wariness of attending hospitals.

Some of the rise will also be due to a significant decrease in the number of elderly people being moved to care homes in the six months, largely driven by fears over coronavirus outbreaks and PPE shortages in the care sector.

Another factor, according to some experts, could be that older people who have been shielding throughout the pandemic have been left weakened as they’ve been unable to take exercise or get around as they normally would.

It could also be that people suffered delays in accessing care due to coronavirus, and people were less able to fight off non-coronavirus conditions, having been weakened by previously having the virus.