Only a third of the excess deaths seen in the community in England and Wales can be explained by covid-19, new data have shown.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data,1 which cover deaths in hospitals, care homes, private homes, hospices, and elsewhere, show that 6035 people died as a result of suspected or confirmed covid-19 infection in England and Wales in the week ending 1 May 2020 (where deaths were registered up to 9 May), a decline of 2202 from the previous week.
Although the number of deaths in care homes has fallen for the second week in a row, more covid related deaths are being reported in care homes than in hospitals and are tailing off more slowly.
However, David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said that covid-19 did not explain the high number of deaths taking place in the community.
At a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre on 12 May he explained that, over the past five weeks, care homes and other community settings had had to deal with a “staggering burden” of 30 000 more deaths than would normally be expected, as patients were moved out of hospitals that were anticipating high demand for beds.
Of those 30 000, only 10 000 have had covid-19 specified on the death certificate. While Spiegelhalter acknowledged that some of these “excess deaths” might be the result of underdiagnosis, “the huge number of unexplained extra deaths in homes and care homes is extraordinary. When we look back . . . this rise in non-covid extra deaths outside the hospital is something I hope will be given really severe attention.”
He added that many of these deaths would be among people “who may well have lived longer if they had managed to get to hospital.”