Haringey’s high level of home care deaths during pandemic revealed

New data suggests only small proportion of additional deaths of people receiving home care during pandemic caused directly by Covid-19, reports James Cracknell

NHS Rainbow credit Alex Motoc-Unsplash)
credit Alex Motoc-Unsplash

Deaths of people being cared for at home in Haringey rose five-fold last year, new data shows.

According to figures obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there were 170 deaths of people receiving home care, also known as domiciliary care, in Haringey during the first year of the pandemic. This compares to 32 during the 2019 calendar year, which was the last year to be unaffected by coronavirus.

The 431% increase in the borough’s mortality for people in home care is one of the highest in the country. Across England as a whole, deaths of adults receiving home care increased by 49% during the same period.

Of the 170 deaths in Haringey in the last year, 5.9% were people who died after testing positive for Covid-19, suggesting the pandemic has had wider impacts on those people receiving care at home.

Head of policy at Disability Rights UK, Fazilet Hadi, said: “The dramatic increase in deaths of people receiving domiciliary care during the pandemic, appears to be truly shocking.

“Whilst the deaths of people living in care homes has received attention, the deaths of those living at home and receiving domiciliary care have not previously been investigated or addressed. It is vital that these deaths are made visible and we understand what went on.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s data has been obtained from the Care Quality Commission, which collates deaths reported by care providers across the country.

Haringey Council has provided different figures in response to the Bureau’s investigation, covering different time spans, with the local authority stating 148 people died in the 2020 calendar year within a day of receiving domiciliary care, compared with 112 for the 2019 calendar year. These numbers come from “home care deaths registered with the council”.

Asked what some of the factors contributing to these deaths in Haringey might be, a council spokesperson responded: “The need for support is likely to be linked to an existing condition of either illness, disability or age and the lack of other available means of support.

“Some users have complex needs with associated long-term conditions which can make them more vulnerable to an early death. In addition, many users are over 65, which is the most at-risk group from Covid-19 complications and potentially death.

“There is increasing understanding of the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on some communities including those most likely to be in need of adult social care – such as disabled people, those with specific learning disabilities, those with long term conditions and those who are older.”

Asked how the pandemic had altered adult social care in Haringey, and how the council has coped with these pressures, they said: “It has brought together many agencies to support vulnerable residents in the community. There has clearly been a focus on supporting specific Covid-19 requirements including access to PPE, testing and vaccination across the system and increased levels of communication between all agencies.

“More widely, there has been a nationwide focus on the status and importance of adult social care – we have seen an increased interest with our local residents through our dedicated social care portal, Proud to Care, which has now become a partnership across all London authorities.

“We have used our existing partnerships to ensure good communication, strong joint working and pooling of resources. This has involved agencies across statutory, community and private agencies to protect local residents.”

The spokesperson added that Haringey Council had introduced a new “locality model” for home care linking the service into local networks of provision to “ensure home care is not an isolated service but one as part of provider support in a local neighbourhood”.