Summary: The daily Covid-19 deaths statistics only referred to deaths in hospital. Deaths in care homes and at home are only revealed much later. Scottish care home death statistics were partially announced this morning. On the assumption that these will be followed in the rest of the UK pro rata then we should add well in excess of 5000 additional deaths to the UK count and probably very many more. Per capita it seems inevitable that UK deaths will be one of the highest in the world and exceeding those off Spain and Italy.
The death statistics quoted by government ministers and used as the metric of success in the UK in managing the pandemic only reveal the level of deaths in hospital. Others who die at home or in care homes are not recorded. They only start appearing well after the event when the death certificates are processed and the cause of death is given as being due to Covid-19. Those figures are compiled into weekly total debt figures that are only mentioned in passing. For the week ending 27 March 501 deaths were registered in hospital and only 20 in care homes, plus 15 at home.
Around 400,000 people are currently resident in British care homes. We have no idea of the incidence of Covid-19 infection but we do know that in some care homes as many as 70% of residents have been affected. The only clear statistic that we have of care home deaths was given this morning (13 April) for Scotland by the Cabinet Health Secretary. She said on the Today programme that 46% of all Scottish care homes have notified her of at least one Covid-19 death. That gave a total of 406 deaths.
We do not have the figures for England, Wales or Northern Ireland. However we can make some simple calculations. The population of Scotland is 8.2% of that of the UK. Just simply accepting that there were only 406 deaths in Scotland (and the words used were “at least one death”) then simply pro rata we would expect there to be around 4500 deaths in the remainder of the UK making a total of about 5000 nationwide.
Unfortunately, we know from many instances within England that there are often more than individual deaths per care home. We do not have those numbers for Scotland but if we make a simple assumption that on average in each Scottish care home that was not a single death but actually 1.5 deaths then that would correspond throughout the whole of the UK a total death level of about 7500. The UK has officially recorded 10,600 deaths. If we add in those now estimated for care homes the total is in excess of 18,000 before we add in those that may have died at home. Increasingly we are hearing that those who are frail and elderly but become infected at home are generally not being taken to hospital if treatment will be problematic and those deaths are therefore not recorded in the hospital figures.
It seems inevitable therefore that the British death rate from the Covid-19 pandemic is already greater than recorded in Spain or Italy. The population of Germany is about 25% greater than that of the UK yet Germany has managed to keep deaths down to just over 3000.
The conclusion has to be that the real death rate in the UK from Covid-19 will be one of the highest per capita in the world, a remarkable achievement. The well documented delays in the UK for taking the epidemic seriously and trying to manage it without adequate planning or anticipation is nothing short of criminal.
Note added: morning of 14 April:
On the Today programme the head of the largest care home grouping in England, HC1, said that two thirds of their care homes (232 ohms) have reported infections, a total of 2447 cases with 311 deaths and one staff member who died. This suggests that the factor used above of 1.5 deaths per care home is not too far away from reality and that the upper limits described above are more likely to be correct. Richard Murphy on his blog (https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2020/04/13/we-wont-just-have-the-worst-health-outcome-in-europe-from-covid-19-we-will-probably-have-the-worst-economic-one-too/) confirms that other European countries are finding that care home deaths are much the same as hospital deaths across Europe.