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Why the number of Covid-19 deaths in Cambridgeshire care homes is unknown

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Questions remain over the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Cambridgeshire care homes, with public bodies reluctant to release incomplete figures.

The number of deaths from Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire care homes is unknown (34014392)
The number of deaths from Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire care homes is unknown (34014392)

Cambridgeshire County Council, the Care Quality Commission, and Public Health England are all collating information about the effects of the virus in the county’s care homes, but so far no Cambridgeshire-specific information has been made public.

The Care Quality Commission said it is planning to release more localised data on Covid-19 related deaths of care home residents on Tuesday (April 28). The precise nature of that data is yet to be confirmed, including whether or not it will be county specific, but the CQC said it is not expected to provide statistics per care home or service.

Public Health England said it is working with local authorities and care homes to collate information, but it could not say when the information would be made available or what level of detail it would go into.

Cllr David Jenkins asked the leader of the council in Thursday’s (April 23) general purposes committee about the situation in the county’s care homes, but he said he could not provide any details.

“We get an awful lot of stats from the national news bulletins etc about infection rates on a national scale, and we get a certain amount regionally,” Cllr Jenkins said.

“Now I’ve been privy to some about Cambridgeshire down an unofficial route, but it would be really helpful if we had stats on how well or how badly we are doing locally come down our own official channels. I understand that we are fortunately running at lower levels of infection than anywhere else, and it would be useful to have that confirmed.

“It would also be useful to have it confirmed, that we have not just got a low infection rate across the community, but that we have got a handle on what is happening in the care homes and in other caring locations as well. Is that possible?”

Cllr Count responded: “We have briefings to us from Public Health England, from the NHS, CCG etc. I think we will have to take up with them what is the appropriateness of which information to release as and when it’s appropriate for them to allow us to have that information.

“I have had sight of some confidential information, but because it’s confidential I can’t share it.”

Councillor Steve Count. Picture: Keith Heppell
Councillor Steve Count. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Count added that the council could ask the other public bodies about the possibility of sharing more information publicly.

County council documents published this week show the council is receiving reports on the situation in some care homes to allow officers to monitor it and target resources.

The council said: “Residential and nursing homes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have no responsibility to notify the county council about deaths of their residents, although some do. Where they do, they are also not able to confirm in a lot of cases whether a death is Covid-19 related or due to other causes.

“The information being collated for operational purposes by adult social care is not a mandatory return nor is it likely to offer a complete or wholly accurate picture, it’s purpose is to give our teams an understanding of how providers are working and it can also flag where we might need to target resource.”

Some councils across the country, including Suffolk County Council, have released information, albeit incomplete, about suspected or confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes in their areas.

In week 16 of the outbreak (April 13-19) Public Health England said there have been 682 “acute respiratory outbreaks” confirmed as Covid-19 in England, 651 in care homes, 17 in hospitals, four in prisons and 10 in “other settings”.

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