Care homes bosses blame death toll on hospitals sending back patients

Care homes bosses blame climbing death toll on ‘reckless stiff broom’ policy to send back hundreds of elderly coronavirus patients to free up hospital beds

  • Care home sector has seen devastating and rapidly escalating death toll 
  • Government plan advises hospitals, ‘to free up NHS capacity via rapid discharge’
  • ONS said on Tuesday 1,000 people died in care homes in the week to 10 April 
  • But experts estimate the true death toll could be climbing to more than 7,500 
  • Care England estimated care home deaths to have reached 7,500 a week ago
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Care home bosses have blamed the sector’s soaring death toll on government guidance telling hospitals to discharge elderly residents to free up beds. 

The chilling warning came in the wake of a government document which advises hospitals, ‘to free up NHS capacity via rapid discharge into the community and reducing planned care.’

The plan, drafted on March 17, told NHS hospitals that ‘timely discharge’ was important – and told care homes to accept patients who had not even been tested for coronavirus.

It has since been updated saying the policy ‘will move’ to patients being tested prior to admission to care homes. 

But residents coming from their own homes do not have to be tested prior to admission. 

The devastating impact on the elderly has been laid bare in recent days, after Care England estimated the number of Covid-19 deaths in care homes reached 7,500 a week ago. 

Questions continue to emerge over the true number of Britons dying in care homes after figures from Northern Ireland yesterday showed a third of all fatalities were elderly residents.  

Last night it was announced another 684 people have died from coronavirus in Britain, taking the total number of fatalities to 19,506. 

Abbotswood Nursing Home in Ballasalla (pictured) had its license suspended on April 13 after nearly 40 residents tested positive for coronavirus

Director and chief nurse Zandra Lewis had earlier warned about a lack of PPE at the care home

As Britain’s coronavirus death tally edges closer to 20,000:

  • Officials also announced that 5,386 people tested positive for the killer virus, meaning 143,464 have now officially been diagnosed;
  • NHS England confirmed 587 people died in its hospitals, while another 174 deaths were announced across Scotland and Wales;
  • Victims in England were aged between 40 and 102 years old, and 34 of them had no known underlying health conditions;
  • Ministers are looking at whether to relax the strict ‘stay at home’ advice to let small groups of households ‘cluster’ together;
  • It would allow close family members to meet for meals, or enable friends to share childcare. It could also allow couples who do not live together to see each other;  
  • Millions of key workers face a rush to get a coronavirus test on the Government’s new online system this morning – after it ran out of home testing kits just two minutes after launching yesterday;
  • Traffic has returned to London’s A40, with 10 per cent more cars hitting the roads as shops, building sites and factories reopen  
  • Nicola Sturgeon says Scottish people could soon be allowed to meet with a ‘bubble’ of up to friends or family as deaths and cases continue to fall; 
  • Northern Ireland has similarly signalled it could lift restrictions independently of the rest of the UK;
  • But Wales maintains that people should not leave their home unless absolutely essential as hundreds more people continue to die every day


More questions emerged over the true number of Britons dying in care homes today after figures from Northern Ireland showed a third of all fatalities were elderly residents.  

The latest weekly update from the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (NISRA) records 276 deaths involving Covid-19 up to April 17.

Of these, 60.1 per cent occurred in hospitals, 33.7 per cent in care homes, 5.1 per cent at private addresses and 1.1 per cent at hospices.

The 96 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 44 separate establishments.

The NISRA figures are higher than the number of deaths reported daily by the Public Health Agency (PHA), which by April 17 had reached 212.

The PHA figures are based on patients who had previously tested positive for the virus, whereas NISRA figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, filled out by medical professionals.

Comparatively the total number of total deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending April 17 was 424. The figure is 11 fewer than the previous week but 134 more than the five year average of 290. 

Data from England and Wales has suggested the true number of deaths outside hospitals – which are the only ones recorded by the Department of Health – is around 15 per cent.

But figures from Scotland show the rate is around 40 per cent, which could mean the UK’s true death toll from COVID-19 is more than 27,000.    

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday 1,000 people died in care homes in the week to 10 April.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates care homes in England, has produced preliminary data for April 11-15, suggesting there were a further 1,000 deaths linked to Covid-19.

They also say there may be a significant increase.

New figures are expected to be published on April 28, once they have been verified.

The Adult and Social Care Action Plan adds: ‘Timely discharge is important for individuals so they can recuperate in a setting appropriate for rehabilitation and recovery – and the NHS also needs to discharge people in order to maintain capacity for acutely ill patients.’ 

It was subsequently updated with the following guidance: ‘We can now confirm we will move to institute a policy of testing all residents prior to admission to care homes. 

‘This will begin with all those being discharged from hospital.’ 

But it says people coming from their own homes will not yet be tested prior to admission; ‘For individuals coming from the community, we will move to these residents being tested prior to admission. 

‘The majority will have come from isolation in their own homes given social distancing and shielding policies. 

‘After discussion with the new resident and family, the care home may wish to isolate the new resident for a 14-day period following admission.’

A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that the policy was ‘designed as a ‘stiff broom’ to free up capacity in hospitals.’

Dr Jamie Wilson, founder of Hometouch, which provides care to people in their own homes, told the Telegraph: ‘I’m astonished at the lack of foresight of these policies. 

‘To mandate that care homes should take back Covid-positive patients with such a high risk of cross infection and high mortality rate in vulnerable residents seems unfathomable.’ 

This comes as it was revealed ministers are looking at whether to relax the strict ‘stay at home’ advice to let small groups of households ‘cluster’ together. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Social care is on the frontline of our fight against coronavirus and the safety of staff and residents is our top priority.

Another 684 people have died from coronavirus in Britain Officials also announced that 5,386, people tested positive for the killer virus up to Friday afternoon. It means the total number of fatalities is 19,506, while 143,464 patients have been officially been diagnosed

‘All care home residents discharged from hospital will be tested before being admitted into their care home. For those who have tested positive, care homes should follow guidance on effective isolation strategies or cohorting and where this isn’t possible alternative accommodation should be found through local authorities for the remainder of their isolation period.

‘To further help control the spread of the virus within social care we have also strengthened our advice around isolation for asymptomatic residents discharged into care homes and are using our increased testing capacity to test all symptomatic care home residents, care staff, and their families.’ 

Who will be in your lock-down ‘bubble’?: Government considers relaxing ‘stay at home’ rules to let small groups meet for meals, share childcare and to reunite couples who live apart

An easing of lockdown rules could allow people to socialise with up to ten of their closest family and friends, it can be revealed today.

Ministers are looking at whether to relax the strict ‘stay at home’ advice to let small groups of households ‘cluster’ together.

It would allow close family members to meet for meals, or enable friends to share childcare. It could also allow couples who do not live together to see each other.

In an idea reminiscent of BT’s ‘Friends and Families’ scheme, people would nominate a small list of those they want to be able to see, drawn from no more than one or two households.

Those involved would then be able to meet for meals and other social activities. But neither group would be allowed to mingle with others outside the ‘cluster’.

Ministers are still grappling with how to enforce the new system and prevent a free-for-all that could allow the coronavirus epidemic to take hold again.

A Whitehall source said: ‘If we can find a way to allow a bit more flexibility without risking transmission of the disease running higher then we will do it.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday warned the government would not ease lockdown restrictions until ministers were certain they could prevent a deadly second wave of infection. 

He said this would not be possible until the number of cases was driven ‘right down’. Mr Hancock said he understood the ‘economic pressures’ the lockdown was causing, but warned they would be even worse if the UK suffered a second peak of the epidemic.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘I understand those voices who are saying we should move sooner but that is not something we are going to do.’

Mr Hancock said the lockdown could not be eased until ministers have the preliminary results of an Office for National Statistics study looking at how widespread the disease is in society. 

Downing Street said it was ‘conceivable’ this could be ready ahead of the May 7 review of the lockdown.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith yesterday said it was time for the government to ‘bite the bullet’ on the issue and set out a plan for easing the lockdown.

‘The UK government now needs to recognise that the time is now,’ he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured, yesterday warned the government would not ease lockdown restrictions until ministers were certain they could prevent a deadly second wave of infection.

Britain’s R0 IS below one: Chief medical officer reveals UK coronavirus sufferers are on average infecting less than one person in crucial milestone towards lifting lockdown 

Professor Chris Whitty has offered a chink of light out of the lockdown after revealing coronavirus infection rates have been wrestled down.

England’s chief medical officer said the reproduction number – or R0 – has been brought below 1, marking a critical achievement in the UK’s war on Covid-19.

It means coronavirus sufferers are on average infecting less than one person, meaning the disease will wind up as it can no longer spread.

Prof Whitty, who is part of the core team steering the government’s response and has become a staple in the briefings, suggested an easing of restrictions could happen relatively soon.

Speaking to MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee, Prof Whitty said: ‘The R that we have at the moment is somewhere between 0.5 and 1.

‘Let’s say for the sake of argument it is in the middle of that range, which I think is likely, that does give a little bit of scope for manoeuvre and ticking some things off while still keeping it below 1.

‘But there are lots of ifs, buts and ands to that.

Privately ministers are gloomy about the prospect of any significant easing of the lockdown on May 7, given the need to meet five tests that include a major reduction in the number of cases and security of supply of personal protective equipment.

One insider said: ‘I don’t think anyone thinks we are going to pass the five tests in the next week or two.’ 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is considering relaxing the lockdown rules. 

She said: ‘I know from my own parents who are not seeing their grandkids just know, I understand the anguish of that.

‘We’re all missing seeing our loved ones so we all want to get beyond that as quickly as possible.

‘Every country is going through these decisions, none of us are through this pandemic yet, but some countries are starting to look at slightly expanding what people would define as their household – encouraging people who live alone to maybe match up with somebody else who is on their own or a couple of other people to have almost kind of bubbles of people.’

One in five Cumbrian care homes now infected with coronavirus

Cumbria was an early outlier in terms of infection rates of Covid-19 and has recorded 17 care home deaths since April 1, with 74 more where the virus is suspected to have been a factor in the fatality, according to figures released by the Cumbria Local Resilience Forum (LRF) on Thursday.

It said 23 out of 112 of the county’s care homes have had suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases, around 20 per cent. There are approximately 3,400 people living in the county’s residential and nursing homes.

The virus case distribution is anecdotally thought to have been higher in the county due to the relatively older and more affluent local population, with people returning to Cumbria from half-term skiing trips in northern Italy, the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe.

A further 55 care home residents are confirmed to have Covid-19, with another 170 suspected cases, according to the LRF.

The county currently has the eighth highest number of infections per 100,000 of the population out of 150 local authority areas in England, according to Public Health England figures.

Areas with similar rates are all highly urban or cities. It is thought Cumbria’s higher figures are likely to converge with other parts of the UK as the virus spreads further.

Single care home where 11 out of Isle of Man’s 15 coronavirus deaths has its licence suspended after director blasted government over lack of PPE gear 


A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health at the weekend has shown the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’.

It raised concerns about testing in care homes, funding for the sector, and inadequate amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, the BBC reported.

Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.

It said the situation around PPE, which is now mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.

The care sector, which looks after around 400,000 of Britain’s most vulnerable people, was being overlooked while officials focused on the NHS, Adass said as they raised fears of a ‘significant imbalance’.

The bosses added that they welcomed coronavirus swab testing for people working in social care but said it looked as it if it would be ‘rolled out without being given thought to who is going to be tested and what we are going to do with the result’.

A single care home where 11 out of the Isle of Man’s 15 coronavirus deaths have occurred has had its licence suspended – after its director blasted the government over a lack of PPE. 

Abbotswood Nursing Home in Ballasalla had its license suspended on April 13 after nearly 40 residents tested positive for coronavirus. 

Eleven people are now reported to have died at the home – with six confirmed in the last 24 hours alone – while another resident died while being treated at Noble’s Hospital.

Health Minister David Ashford revealed the news in a media briefing yesterday in which he also said his ‘heart goes out to the families and friends’ of the victims and announced there were now 307 confirmed cases on the virus on the island.  

Director and chief nurse Zandra Lewis had earlier warned about a lack of PPE at the care home. 

She told Manx Radio: ‘We’ve asked for help from the relevant public health authorities to give us the appropriate PPE to look after the rest of my staff, let alone the residents. 

‘And we’ve been given what I would call basic PPE. I’m really upset because any of my staff actually died from this, let alone residents, then I will feel the government has let us down.

She added: ‘Are we as a private nursing home, which has NHS residents in it, not as worthy as a hospital [for PPE]?’  

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) took over the running of the care home last week. 

DHSC chief executive Kathryn Magson said the reasons behind the decision were ‘confidential’ but it was for the ‘safety of the residents’, according to the BBC.

Some residents of the care home have been moved to a building on the Noble’s Hospital site while the facility is given a ‘deep clean’ but they be moved back once that is completed. 

Nine people including a nurse have died in 10 days at a Dundee care home at the centre of negligence allegations 

Nine people – including a nurse – have died in 10 days at a Dundee care home at the centre of negligence allegations.

Pitkerro Care Centre confirmed the fatalities after a former care worker revealed she had resigned in ‘disgust’ at the conditions she was forced to work under.

She has reported Pitkerro to the Care Inspectorate, which confirmed it was ‘considering all information’ carefully

Operator Hudson Healthcare has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, stating it had followed national safety guidance ‘every step of the way’.

Managing director Samuel Maierovits said: ‘We want to be clear: we have an enormous responsibility, so we should be held accountable for our actions.

‘However, there’s a difference between accountability and shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre; some of the misinformation being shared is just plain dangerous, and is preventing us from doing our jobs.’

While the death of a nurse at Pitkerro was confirmed as coronavirus-related, the possible link of Covid-19 to the deaths of eight residents is still being assessed by GPs.

Pitkerro Care Centre in Dundee (pictured) confirmed the fatalities after a former care worker revealed she had resigned in ‘disgust’ at the conditions she was forced to work under

‘Death is a constant part of care home life but it doesn’t make any of these losses any easier to deal with,’ said Mr Maierovits.

‘Our thoughts are with all of the families and friends of those who have passed on; as we fight this virus together, so too we mourn together.’

GMB Scotland, which represents a significant number of staff at Pitkerro, hit out at Hudson Healthcare last week after receiving what it described as ‘very disturbing’ information about its management culture.

Organiser Drew Duffy said it suggested the home was ‘ignoring public health guidelines and compromising the health and safety of staff and service users alike.’

More staff have since come forward to speak to the Tele, including Lee Blake, who contacted the Care Inspectorate.

She claimed there was an ‘atrocious’ lack of PPE for staff, with carers being asked to wear one apron and one pair of gloves for an entire 12-hour shift.

Dirty PPE had also been discarded on a trolley left in a corridor, which Hudson has since apologised for and is investigating.

In response, Mr Maierovits said Hudson was being distracted from its primary focus of providing the best care for residents by a ‘constant barrage of criticism in the media and online’.

He added: ‘We know this is an extremely difficult time for so many people and anxieties are running high. That’s why, so far, we have taken a conciliatory approach.

‘We will continue doing this as we think collaboration and transparency will lead to the best outcomes, but we are now considering all options because of the threat to our staff and residents, including legal action.’

Mr Maierovits said Hudson had followed Health Protection Scotland’s guidance of the use of PPE, implementing change ‘as quickly as possible’ when amendments were made.

He added: ‘We are doing all we can to protect our residents and staff.

‘We know that people are concerned and completely understand. However, we have to be able to do our job.

‘We are working closely with the local authority, Health Protection Scotland and Care Inspectorate to ensure we are following the official guidance, and will continue to do so.’

The Care Inspectorate said it understood this ‘is a really worrying time for people who experience care, their loved ones and families and for those who work in care’.

A spokesman added: ‘Care services across Scotland are working tirelessly under very challenging circumstances to care for people.

‘The Care Inspectorate is working closely with care providers, health and social care partnerships, care industry leaders and the Scottish Government to ensure services get the support they need during the pandemic.

‘Concerns have been raised with us about this service, we are in close contact with them and we are considering all information given to us carefully.’

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