Deaths at home may be missed off the official coronavirus figures

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers and words by Producer Dan Howells

It is unlikely to be of much surprise to find out that the number of people who’ve died in England and Wales in the last few weeks is higher than what we would normally expect for this time of year.

In the latest data to be published by the ONS for the week ending 10 April, 18,516 deaths were registered, around 8,000 higher than the average number for that same week over the last five years.

That’s the highest number of deaths registered in a single week for 20 years.

And yet - some of these deaths are not being attributed to coronavirus, particularly those happening in care homes and in people’s homes.

The first few coronavirus-related deaths were registered in the week ending 13 March, since then they’ve risen to account for 33.6% of all the deaths that were registered in the second week of April.

More than 60% of the deaths in hospitals in that same week were thought to be because of coronavirus, but it was mentioned in only 16.8% of deaths in care homes and in just 8% of deaths in private homes.

This is despite the fact that the total number of deaths in care homes, by any cause, has almost doubled in the last five weeks and deaths in private homes has risen by more than 50%.

In this graph you can clearly see how normally the number of deaths in private homes and care homes, when combined, is around the same as the number of deaths in hospital each week.

As more people have died over the last month, the deaths in hospital and the deaths out of hospital have risen at a similar rate.

Number of deaths in private and care homes.

But while coronavirus can almost completely account for that rise in hospital deaths, far fewer deaths at people’s homes and in care homes are being registered with a mention of Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Whether these extra deaths are due to coronavirus being undiagnosed at the time of death, or if some people aren't seeking medical treatment and perhaps dying of other causes at home or in care homes is impossible to say until we have more data.