Unexplained increase in deaths at home ‘concerning’, expert warns

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·3-min read
Close-up of person supporting sick family member at home
There have been 30,000 extra deaths, excluding coronavirus fatalities, in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic, ONS figures show. (Getty)
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coronavirus latest news

An unexplained increase in deaths at home not linked to COVID-19 is cause for concern, an expert has said.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that 30,000 extra deaths, excluding coronavirus fatalities, have now taken place in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic.

Extra deaths – known as “excess deaths” – are the number of deaths that are above the average for the corresponding period in the previous five years.

Prof Kevin McConway, a professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said he is “concerned” about the increase, adding that he has yet to see clear data to explain this rise.

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He said: “The numbers of deaths at home are still running considerably above the average of the previous five years.

“Nearly 1,000 more this week, again. That’s about 40% of the five-year average.

“In other words, for every 10 deaths at home that occurred in the corresponding week in the previous five years, there were 14 this year, in the week ending 13 November.

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“Most of those deaths don’t have COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate at all. I have still not seen any clear data on why this is happening, and I’m certainly still concerned about it.”

It comes after analysis of ONS data found that 30,785 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales that did not involve COVID-19 were registered between 7 March and 13 November.

Nearly half of these deaths – 14,007, or 45% – were registered since the start of July.

 A woman wearing a face mask as a precaution walks past a Stay Alert, Save Lives rainbow sign in Soho. England is set to enforce a tough tier system once the lockdown ends on 2 December. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a 'Stay Alert, Save Lives' rainbow sign in the Soho area of London. (SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

The figures show there are still many more people than normal who are dying in their own home despite the number of COVID-19 deaths in private homes in England and Wales dropping sharply during the summer and early autumn.

Of the 2,877 registered deaths involving COVID-19 that have occurred in homes since the start of the pandemic, only around a fifth (594, or 21%) have been since the start of July.

By contrast, the number of non-COVID excess deaths in private homes has shown no sign of a similar drop.

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Instead, the total registered each week has been running at roughly the same level – around 700 to 900 above the five-year average – since the end of May.

Previous analysis by the ONS found that deaths in private homes in England for males from heart disease, from the start of the coronavirus pandemic through to early September, were 26% higher than the five-year average, while prostate cancer deaths had increased 53%.

For women, deaths in private homes from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had increased 75%, while deaths from breast cancer were up 47%.

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