New figures raise concerns over accuracy of COVID-19 care home death numbers

Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo by Jonathan Porter, Press Eye.

Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo by Jonathan Porter, Press Eye.

THE overall number of care home deaths increased by almost 70% in Northern Ireland following the start of COVID-19 having a fatal impact here.

Figures released to The Detail by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) show that, overall, there were 415 deaths in care homes in the four-week period from March 23, 2020 to April 19, 2020.

This figure of 415 is 68% higher than the total number in the previous four weeks, from February 24 to March 22, when 247 deaths were recorded in care homes.

The first COVID-19 death in Northern Ireland was recorded on March 19.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) recorded that there were 95 COVID-19 deaths in Northern Ireland’s care homes during a four-week period from March 21 to April 17.

However, the RQIA’s data shows there was an overall increase of 168 deaths in care homes from the total of 247 – which occurred in a four-week timeframe leading up to when the virus began having a fatal impact here – to the 415 deaths which were recorded in the following four weeks.

If the 95 NISRA-recorded COVID-19 care home deaths account for part of the reason for this increase of 168 RQIA-recorded deaths, between these two four-week periods, that still leaves an additional tranche of around 70 other care home deaths where COVID-19 has not been recorded as a cause of death.

An RQIA spokesperson previously told The Detail their organisation couldn’t “provide details of the cause of deaths in care homes” due to a lack of confirmatory COVID-19 testing.

The RQIA could not provide us with any figures on deaths in care homes which took place after April 19. However, NISRA has recorded a further 63 COVID-19 care home deaths from April 18 to April 24.

It has recently been reported that there have been 14 COVID-19 deaths in just one care home, Glenabbey Manor, in Glengormley.

Care home providers are obliged to inform the RQIA of all deaths which occur in their facilities. A spokesperson for the RQIA, however, told The Detail that there “may be a delay in reporting information to the RQIA” and that their figures are subject to change.

The latest Department of Health (DoH) update states that there have been a total of 418 COVID-19 deaths in Northern Ireland.

  • The RQIA recorded deaths by weeks ending on Sundays whereas NISRA recorded deaths by weeks ending on Fridays.
  • To read an article published by The Detail on the RQIA ceasing its routine inspections of care homes during the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
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