Ministers accused of being 'too slow' as more than 44,000 coronavirus-related deaths confirmed in UK

Care home deaths Credit: PA

There have been more than 44,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, the latest figures reveal.

Of these, 9,980 Covid-19-related deaths took place in care homes in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

In the week ending May 8, 42.4% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales happened in care homes.

However, the number of deaths in total in the care sector was down on the pervious week for the second week running.

Care home deaths fell to 1,666 in the week ending May 8, from 2,423 deaths in the previous seven days – a decrease of 31%, the ONS said.

Likewise, coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales fell by more than one-third in the same period, a drop of 2,105 deaths (34.8%) from the previous week, when there were 6,035 deaths registered.

This drop can be partly attributed to the early May bank holiday, with only 88 deaths registered on May 8 compared with 2,950 the previous Friday - around 20% lower - but also due to a decline in the number of cases and hospital admissions.

There have been almost 10,000 Covid-19-related care home deaths across England and Wales. Credit: PA

The figures put out by the ONS are around one-third higher than those announced by the government.

This is because the ONS figures include all mentions of Covid-19 on a death certificate, including suspected coronavirus, and are based on the date that deaths occurred.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health figures are based on when deaths were reported, and are for deaths where a person has tested positive for Covid-19.

As of 5pm on Sunday, 34,796 people in the UK had died after testing positive for Covid-19, according to the Department of Health.

Of the 44,000 coronavirus-related deaths across the UK, ONS figures show that 39,071 occurred in England and Wales up to May 8.

The latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, published last week, showed 3,213 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to May 10.

And the latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, also published last week, showed 599 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Northern Ireland up to May 13.

Together these figures mean that so far 42,883 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

A further 1,211 hospital patients in England who had tested positive for Covid-19 died between May 9 and May 17, according to figures published on Monday by NHS England – which, together with the total figure of 42,883 registered deaths, indicates the overall death toll for the UK is now just over 44,000.

Overall deaths, not just coronavirus-related ones, are higher than normal. Credit: PA

Tuesday’s figures from the ONS also show that 121,002 deaths were registered in England and Wales between March 21 and May 8, 2020.

This was 49,575 more deaths than the average for this period in the previous five years, however, Covid-19 was only responsible for 37,187 of these excess deaths, or 75%.

Meanwhile, the National Records of Scotland found there were 4,082 excess deaths in Scotland between March 23 and May 10, while the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency put the figure for Northern Ireland at 733 excess deaths between March 21 and May 8.

Together, this means the total number of excess deaths in the UK across this period is 54,390.

The ONS said it is continuing to investigate the number of non-Covid-19-related deaths and will publish detailed analysis on this in the future.

'Ministers have been to slow to tackle the problem in care homes', says Labour

Just over 50% of all coronavirus-related deaths are taking place in hospitals. Credit: PA

Labour's shadow care minister Liz Kendal quizzed Matt Hancock in the Commons over the new death figures after they were revealed.

She said ministers had been "too slow" to protect care homes and accused the government of not giving the care sector the same priority as the NHS.

She levelled several questions at the health secretary, asking about PPE, tests, a policy of not testing coronavirus hospital patients being discharged into care homes, and guidance that claimed care home residents were "very unlikely to be infected".

She asked, with all these issues surrounding care homes, how the government can claim it has "thrown a protective cloak around care homes right from the start".

  • Watch Matt Hancock answer questions on coronavirus in the Commons:

Mr Hancock disagreed with her assessment, claiming the government had "made social care a priority from the start" of the coronavirus crisis.

On not testing coronavirus hospital patients before they were discharged into hospitals, before April 15, Mr Hancock said "what’s important is that infection control procedures are in place".

"Those infection control procedures were put in place at the start of this crisis and have been strengthened…as we’ve learned more and more about the virus all the way along," he said.

Downing Street said care homes had not been forced to take recovering Covid-19 patients back if they were not able to provide proper support.

It added how the "NHS are now testing all people leaving hospital in advance of their discharge to care homes.”

Mr Hancock admitted PPE procurement and distribution had been a "huge challenge" due to a global shortage, but said there are now "processes in place" to ensure care homes can get the equipment they need.

He also acknowledged it is “important to learn from everywhere around the world” in how others are dealing with coronavirus.

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