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Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Let’s be open and honest about covid-19 deaths in care homes

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 18 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2334

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  1. David Oliver, consultant in geriatrics and internal medicine
  1. Berkshire
  1. davidoliver372{at}
    Follow David on Twitter: @mancunianmedic

From the first recorded UK case to June 5, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 17 422 deaths of care home residents from covid-19 in England and Wales—47% of the total.1

England’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, was insisting in the media that only around 30% of deaths in England were in care homes, saying that it was lower than the European average, by using Department of Health and Social Care data based only on people who had tested positive for covid-19 (when tests were in short supply) rather than on death certification—an approach used by ministers throughout the pandemic.

Although the ONS started publishing the covid-19 data on deaths in all settings and excess all cause deaths on 13 March, there was a delay before they were included in the daily Downing Street briefings.

The daily death toll data from briefings were amplified by personal accounts from bereaved families who had not been able to be with their loved ones when they died. Care home managers and staff spoke out about being overwhelmed, becoming sick themselves, and the lack of adequate access to personal protective equipment or testing. …

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