Increase of 70,000 people dying at home in England and Wales during pandemic

Analysis shows more people than normal died at home, away from proper care and pain relief, and only 12% were from Covid-19

Erkan Nabi holds his mother, Munuse Nabi's hand, in King George Hospital before she died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ilford, Britain, April 19, 2020.  To match Special Report HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/BRITAIN-ELDERLY   Erkan Nabi/Handout via REUTERS    THIS PICTURE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

About 70,000 more people than normal have died in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, an analysis shows.

The extra fatalities, known as “excess deaths”, are the number of deaths above the average for the corresponding period in the non-pandemic years of 2015 to 2019.

A total of 70,602 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales were registered between March 7, 2020, and September 17, 2021, a PA analysis of Office for National Statistics data shows.

Of this number, only 8,423 – or 12 per cent – were deaths that involved Covid-19.

Deaths in private homes have been consistently well above the 2015-2019 average since April 2020.

Even during recent months, when almost all lockdown restrictions were eased across the country, excess deaths in homes have typically been running at between 700 and 900 a week.

More than 8,200 excess deaths in private homes have been recorded in England and Wales since the start of July.

This compares with about 2,300 excess deaths in hospitals and nearly 1,000 in care homes over the same period.

Analysis published this year by the statistics office found that, while most deaths due to Covid-19 in 2020 happened in hospitals and care homes, many from other causes, such as breast and prostate cancers, happened in private homes.

In a non-pandemic year, they might have died elsewhere, such as in hospital.

The figures showed that deaths from diabetes in private homes were 60 per cent higher in 2020 compared with the average for 2015-19, while those from chronic rheumatic heart disease and Parkinson’s were each up 66 per cent.

Deaths of those suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were up 65 per cent, with increases of 44 per cent and 37 per cent for prostate and breast cancers.

“This latest data shows that during the pandemic, on average, over 120 more people were dying at home every day compared with the previous five years," said Ruth Driscoll, head of policy and public affairs at end-of-life charity Marie Curie.

"This trend is not going away and these figures continue to point to a hidden crisis happening in people’s homes up and down the country.

“People are dying at home without access to pain relief or the dignity they deserve, and their carers are being left unsupported.

"Lessons must be learnt from the pandemic, which has been a stress test for end-of-life care in the community and has shown that the current model for supporting people at end of life is neither resilient nor sustainable in the long term.

“We are at a critical moment for end-of-life care and support services and we urge MPs to support our calls for an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, which would create a legal duty to provide palliative care services in every part of the country.”

Other figures from the statistics office published on Tuesday show that 11,009 deaths in all settings were registered in England and Wales in the week to September 17.

This was 1,703 deaths above the five-year average, with Covid-19 accounted for only 851 of these excess deaths.

It is also the 11th week in a row that deaths have been above the pre-pandemic average. The number of Covid-19 deaths is still well below levels seen at the peak of the second wave of the virus.

In the week to January 29, 8,433 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in England and Wales – nearly 10 times the number registered in the most recent week.

The relatively low number of deaths in the third wave so far, when compared with the second wave, reflects the success of Britain's coronavirus vaccine programme.

Vaccinations in England are estimated to have prevented 123,100 deaths, the latest research by Cambridge University and Public Health England shows.

Updated: September 28th 2021, 10:44 PM