Dozens of English care homes lost at least 20 residents to Covid, data shows

The National and Local picture are both covered in this post.

First the Local data from 

A Devon care home saw 33 deaths of residents related to Covid-19.

The figures cover the period of April 10, 2020 to March 31, 2021, and show that Primley Court care home in Paignton was the hardest hit of anywhere in Devon and Cornwall.

Barton Place Nursing Home in Exeter saw the second highest number of deaths of residents in Devon with 18, all of which occurred between April and June.

Furzehatt Residential and Nursing Home in Plymouth saw 15 deaths, with Greycliffe Manor in Torquay seeing 14, with 13 at both Lucerne House in Exeter and Fernhurst Nursing Home in Exmouth.

Other care homes in Devon which saw ten or more deaths were Belle Vue care home in Paignton, Culm Valley Care Centre in Cullompton, Knappe Cross Care Centre in Exmouth, Silverleigh in Axminster, Cadogan Court in Exeter, Coppelia House in Moretonhampstead, and Ilford Park Polish Home in Newton Abbot.

Parkland House in Exeter, The Old Rectory Nursing Home in Exeter, The Firs Residential Home in Budleigh Salterton, Ernstell House in Plymouth all saw nine deaths, while Pottles Court in Exminster, Deer Park Care Home in Holsworthy, Hembury Fort House in Awliscombe, Sunningdale House Care Home in Honiton, and Brandon House in Exmouth saw eight deaths.

The full list, in the publicly available dataset, can be seen here.

ONS data show that there have been a total of 456 deaths of care home residents in care homes in Devon since the pandemic began, where Covid-19 has been put on the death certificate.

Figures in the CQC data will be higher than the ONS data as the CQC data also includes deaths related to coronavirus that have occurred in hospitals and/or other settings of care home residents, rather than just in a care home, as ONS data records by place of death.

The National data Patrick Butler 

Dozens of care homes in England lost at least 20 residents to Covid-19 during the pandemic, according to “highly sensitive” data published by the care regulator, with one home registering 44 deaths over the past year.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that 6,765 homes across the country registered at least one death between 10 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, highlighting the devastating impact of the crisis on vulnerable residents.

At least 30 deaths were reported by 21 homes. There were 44 deaths at the Bedford care home in Wigan, owned by the large private care home operator Advinia, and 41 deaths registered by Calway House in Taunton, owned by Somerset Care, a not-for-profit operator.

The CQC had refused to publish the death rates data for almost a year, despite pressure from residents’ families and freedom of information requests from journalists, on the grounds that it would undermine confidence in the already fragile predominantly privately owned residential care home market.

In total, there were 39,017 care home deaths over the period, prompting renewed criticism of the government’s failure to stem the outbreak in the residential care sector, and its failure to tackle years of underfunding and understaffing.

The highest number of care home deaths over the period were registered in the south-east region of England (7,404), followed by the north-west (5,748) and the east of England (4,943). The fewest deaths were recorded in London (2,635).

“In considering this data, it is important to remember that every number represents a life lost – and families, friends and those who cared for them who are having to face the sadness and consequences of their death,” said Kate Terroni, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care.

In a statement, the CQC suggested its about-turn on publishing the data came partly following discussions with families who had lost loved ones to Covid. This “helped us shape our thinking around the highly sensitive issue of publishing information” around death notifications on a home-by-home basis.

“We have a duty to be transparent and to act in the public interest, and we made a commitment to publish data at this level, but only once we felt able to do so as accurately and safely as possible given the complexity and sensitivity of the data,” said Terroni.

However, the CQC warned the data should be treated with caution because they were not a reliable guide to care quality or safety at individual care homes. Homes are required to register the death of residents even if they died in hospital or contracted the virus elsewhere.

There are currently around 15,000 care homes inspected by the CQC. Other factors potentially leading to high death rates include the the prevalence of Covid infections in the local community, the availability of PPE, and the number of residents who were discharged from hospital to homes without being tested for the virus during the early phase of the pandemic.

Around 25,000 people were allowed to return to care homes without a Covid test between 17 March and 15 April last year despite a plea to the government from home providers to outlaw the practice. This is believed to have enabled the virus to spread rapidly through homes populated with older, vulnerable residents.

Care home owners were said to be unhappy about the publication of the data because of the danger of it being misinterpreted. Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents care providers, said every death needed to be seen in context. “We do not believe that this data is a reflection of quality.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson insisted the government had done all it could to protect protect vulnerable people throughout the pandemic, saying: “We have provided billions of pounds to support the sector, including on infection and prevention control measures, free PPE, priority vaccinations and additional testing.”

James White, head of public affairs and campaigns at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the data showed the “devastating and tragic consequences” of the government’s failure to protect care homes at the start of the pandemic, and the damage caused by years of underfunding.

Hugh Alderwick, head of policy at the Health Foundation, said the CQC data showed how government support for social care during the pandemic was often “too little, too late”, particularly during the first wave. “The government’s claim of ‘a protective ring’ around care homes was not grounded in reality.”

Promise of cleaner rivers with more farm inspectors

Cuts over the past 10-15 years have meant an individual farm could expect to be inspected once every 236 years.

(And then you only get a slap on the wrist! – Owl)

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Ministers have announced plans to drive up water quality for wild swimming and wildlife by almost trebling the number of inspectors ordered to target farmers who pollute rivers.

They have ordered the Environment Agency to increase enforcement following an investigation last year by The Times which found the agency had cut farm inspections in England by two thirds since 2014-15 and was failing to enforce rules introduced in 2018 to stop farmers contaminating rivers with slurry and fertiliser.

The agency recorded 137 breaches of the rules but brought no prosecutions and issued no fines.

Slurry and fertiliser pollution from farms is the single biggest cause of poor water quality in England and Wales which results in 84 per cent of rivers failing to meet the government’s target for good ecological standards.

The agency is recruiting 50 staff to inspect farms in England for compliance with pollution legislation, raising the number of inspectors to 78.

The Rivers Trust, a conservation charity, welcomed the plans, saying that cuts over the past 10-15 years had meant an individual farm could expect to be inspected once every 236 years.

It said: “These new staff do not replace all those that have been lost over the years but the appointments are a very welcome reversal of a decline in enforcement of environmental legislation.”

It said the jobs would have 18-month employment contracts, pending further funding, and there were concerns that this might deter applicants and that it did not indicate a long term strategy by the government.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Rivers Trust, added: “After years of writing letters, campaigning and presenting evidence to ministers, we are delighted that the government has at last decided to fund this vital work to drive compliance with legislation passed by parliament to protect the rest of society from farm pollution.

“As we enter a new era of public money for public goods, it is unthinkable that an industry benefitting from a multi-billion pound public subsidy scheme would not be properly regulated.”

The agency said last year that it had sent 14 warning letters in response to the 137 breaches and the rest had resulted in “advice and guidance”, which it claimed all the farms had heeded.

Covid restrictions could return in three weeks if hospital admissions soar, say Sage scientists

England may have just three weeks to avoid coronavirus restrictions being reimposed after Sage scientists urged ministers to take action if hospital admissions soar above expected levels.

By Jane MerrickPolicy Editor 

Scientific advisers have warned that Boris Johnson should be prepared to act in the first week of August to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed by the end of that month.

Modelling has suggested that the central case for UK daily hospitalisations at the peak of the third wave – expected at the end of August – could be between 1,000 and 2,000, with deaths predicted to be between 100 and 200 per day.

Yet latest figures show that in the middle of July, six weeks before the expected peak, there were 745 patients admitted to hospital in the UK in a day, and that figure continued to rise even before the 19 July relaxation of all restrictions on so-called “freedom day”.

Last week chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said hospitalisations were doubling roughly every three weeks.

This would suggest close to 1,500 admissions by the end of the first week of August, well above the trajectory for the central case scenario for the third wave. It would point to 3,000 at the peak by the end of that month, which would match the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

Insiders stressed there is a lot of uncertainty in the modelling, and the picture will change all the time depending on vaccine take-up and people’s behaviour after 19 July.

But if admissions are outstripping the central estimates, Sage scientists have advised that some non-pharmaceutical measures should be reintroduced, such as mandatory face masks and advice to work from home, in early August, halfway between the19 July unlocking and the predicted peak at the end of August.

This early intervention, they argue, would prevent the NHS becoming swamped in a late summer crisis.

On Tuesday there were 46,558 new coronavirus cases in the UK, while a further 96 people have died, the highest daily reported fatality rate since the middle of March.

Experts warned against predicting hospital admission rates two to three weeks in advance, but stressed that contingency plans should be in place to reintroduce measures at short notice.

Last week, when the Prime Minister gave the go-ahead for the fourth and final stage of the roadmap in England, he accepted that some restrictions may have to be reimposed if the situation worsened.

A source said what was needed was “less of an emergency brake and more of a gear change” in readiness to keep the third wave “under control”.

While mandatory face masks would be the “easiest” route to curb transmission, with minimal impact on the economy if it were kept to public transport and essential settings like supermarkets, this would have to be weighed against the “totemic” impact it would have on the public if they were ordered to cover up once again.

But others are arguing that the government should be prepared to take tougher action.

Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health for Blackburn, said: “Any return to non pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to control spread would have to focus on those that give the biggest suppression effect. 

“Essentially we might expect a reverse through the lockdown lifting steps with each ‘reverse step’ being introduced to match the scale of the surge in cases.”

Prof Harrison added that the rise in hospitalisations may be because the bar for admission is lower now, when there is less pressure on the NHS, than during the first wave in April 2020 and second wave in January this year.

He said: “The current rise in hospital cases is difficult to interpret clearly. It is likely some cases now hospitalised might not have met the threshold for hospital admissions in the last wave in January as the system is ‘adaptive’. 

“Some cases now hospitalised may have been managed by care at home on ‘virtual COVID wards’ when the system was under highest pressure of cases in the last wave.

“However for anyone with significant symptoms, hospitalisation will give the best chance of high quality care and close monitoring of risk – so a lower (current) threshold of admission may be keeping mortality rates as low as possible.”

Grass stops 22 Bovey Tracey homes being built

Fields 1. Homebuyers 0.

Plans for 22 new homes in Bovey Tracey have been refused for reasons including the impact on wildlife.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

During an hour-long debate on the application near Indio House to the south of the town, some councillors raised concerns about building on two fields of ‘MG5 grassland.

Other reasons for refusal were parking concerns, the application’s eco-credentials and uncertainty about whether a cycle and pedestrian link would be successful.

According to Natural England, MG5 grassland is ‘unimproved natural grassland’ including hay meadows that was once ubiquitous in England lowlands but are in decline. Their briefing document on this type of land says: “MG5 grassland is a valuable resource that needs continued management, monitoring, research and protection for it to survive.” 

The meeting heard from three public speakers, two of whom objected on ecological grounds, and a representative of the developer to support the scheme.

In 2018, the committee refused outline application for homes on the site, which had previously been allocated for development as part of the Teignbridge local plan. However in 2019, following an appeal by the developer,  a planning inspector over-ruled that refusal.

Last month councillors deferred the application after deciding they needed more information and time to consider the implications, and a visit to the site.

Teignbridge’s local plan originally allocated 45 homes for the location, which was lowered to 30 in the outline planning permission and then down to 22 for the applicant’s more detailed application.

The homes were recommended for approval by planning officers, who said: “there is no reasonable grounds for refusal of this [application] relating ecology or loss / compensation of the MG5 grassland.”

They said that while “significant local concern has been raised regarding the loss of […] MG5 grassland, a priority habitat,” the officers explained that: “substantial weight has given to the outline application and the approved ecology survey that does not require any compensation to be delivered”.

In their report, they added how the outline permission had not been legally challenged by the council and said: “The access to the site, traffic generation and impact of this development on Indio House were all considered by the inspector who found these matters to be policy-compliant when approving the application.”

Addressing the committee, a planning officer said the scheme was: “the best that we’re going to get whilst making good use of the land and taking into account the allocation that we’ve got.”

Objecting to the plan, Councillor Avril Kerswell (Conservative, Bovey ward) said: “Once again I would like to remind this committee that Teignbridge District Council has declared a climate emergency, and therefore we should be putting biodiversity, ecology and all green issues to the fore of our decision making.

“The MG5 grasslands, which the applicant wishes to build upon, are so important for many reasons. One of them being that there must be an ecosystem within these two meadows which, if examined closely, would astound all of us.”

Cllr Kerswell also questioned why the planning report contained a letter from the applicant’s QC, who said it was okay to build on the land, but not one from the residents’ legal representative who disagreed.

However, chair of the committee, Councillor Mike Haines (Independent, Kerswell-with-Coombe) said the remaining grassland could still be managed and he saw “no reasons that have been presented today that would make me consider refusal” as he backed the recommendation for approval.

In response, Cllr Kerswell said that “most of the grassland will be built on, and that’s not what the people of Bovey Tracey want”.

Councillor Jackie Hook (Lib Dem, Bushell ward) added that while the application was “deeply unsatisfactory…. “us refusing this today, unfortunately, will not stop it happening because there is valid outline planning consent for 22 houses.”

“The refusal reasons I hear are unfortunately not ones that I will think will hold water and I think, therefore, sadly we will not achieve anything in particular by refusing this today.”

Councillor Janet Bradford (Newton Says No, College ward) also objected: “Because of the rare status of this site, I have lots and lots of concerns and I won’t be able to support this.”

The committee were tied on voting for an original motion for refusal, then rejected another motion to approve the scheme by nine votes to five. At the third vote, councillors refused it by the same tally.

The developer, KACH Developments, said they are discussing the next steps and are taking legal advice as to whether they will appeal the committee’s decision.

Britain’s rivers are suffocating to death

There’s more below the surface than we thought – something even worse than the water companies’ disgusting habit of filling our rivers with raw sewage. After a deep dive into the data, the team that made Rivercide last week discovered that while sewage now dominates our perceptions of river pollution, it’s not their major cause of death.

George Monbiot

On the border between Wales and England, we found a great river dying before our eyes. The Wye is covered by every possible conservation law, but in just a few years it has spiralled towards complete ecological collapse. The vast beds of water crowfoot, the long fluttering weed whose white and yellow flowers once bedecked the surface of the river, and which – like mangroves around tropical seas – provide the nurseries in which young fish and other animals grow and adults hide and breed, have almost vanished in recent years. Our own mapping suggests a loss of between 90% and 97%.

They have been suffocated. With increasing frequency, warm weather brings algal blooms. Water that should be crystal clear becomes a green or brown slop of diatoms (microscopic algae). The diatoms shut out the light the crowfoot needs; and at night, as they respire, they draw oxygen from the water, stressing and sometimes killing the remaining fish and insects. Any crowfoot that survives this onslaught may then be colonised by sewage fungus and green slime, which also smothers the fronds, preventing photosynthesis.

Similar things are happening across Britain. Scarcely a river in England and Wales is unaffected by plagues of algae or sewage fungus, caused by an excess of nutrients. But the main culprit is not human excrement.

So what is it? Farming. This is now the biggest cause of river pollution in the UK. There are various reasons, including soil erosion, fertilisers and pesticides, but the most intense and extreme cause, especially in the west of Britain, is industrial livestock units.

Over the 21st century, livestock units have consolidated into giant factories. Vast buildings now house hundreds of dairy cattle, thousands of pigs or tens of thousands of chickens. Regions now specialise in particular animals. The catchment of the River Wye is the UK’s chicken capital.

These factories gather nutrients from a wide area and concentrate them into a small one. The chicken units draw soya from huge tracts of Brazil and Argentina, with devastating consequences for rainforests and savannahs, and pour it into chickens housed along the Wye and its tributaries. The nutrients in the feed then come out in their dung.

Animal dung is high in water and low in value, so it can be shifted economically across only short distances. This means, if you are not to spend more on diesel than the manure is worth, spreading it in the catchment of the river. The soil soon saturates. The nutrients in the dung from then on wash into the river whenever it rains. It doesn’t matter whether farmers illegally pump the dung directly into the river or follow the rules to the letter in spreading it on their fields. Eventually the phosphate, nitrate and other pollutants it contains end up in the water.

So once a certain number of chicken, dairy or pig units have been built in a catchment, rivercide is inevitable. Even if there were effective government monitoring and enforcement, which there isn’t, it would make little difference.

The crucial decision point is the granting of planning permission for industrial livestock units. The local authorities granting it, and the regulators issuing environmental permits, sign the river’s death warrant. Astonishingly, from their responses to our questions, we discovered that neither the two county councils giving these permissions (Powys and Herefordshire), nor the Welsh and English regulators (Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency), appear to have any idea how many chickens are now housed in the catchment or even how many factories there are. This task was left, as so much crucial data gathering has been, to citizen scientists. Alison Caffyn, an academic researcher, and Christine Hugh-Jones, a retired GP, set out to map the factories, and estimated that they house, at any one time, 20 million chickens.

Because none of the authorities have kept score, they cannot assess the cumulative impact of these factories. In granting permission for new units, they treat each one as if it were built in isolation, with no attempt to determine what the extra increment of dung will do to an overloaded river. Worse still, in many cases no environmental decision is made at all, because below a very high threshold (40,000 chickens or 2,000 pigs) a livestock unit does not require an environmental permit. It’s a scandalous regulatory failure.

So the only way of saving many of our most beautiful rivers from this shitstorm appears to be to shut down many, perhaps most, of the industrial livestock units in their catchments. In our film, when I pressed the Welsh minister for rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, on this matter, she appeared to commit to do so if necessary. Through campaigns such as River Action, we should hold her to it, and pressurise her English counterparts, who flatly refused to speak to us, to do the same.

In the meantime, our lovely rivers are being transformed by industrial livestock farms into stinking drains. Let’s stop taking this shit.

We need to have a conversation on COVID statistics with Boris, Lord Sumption and the BBC

The context is Boris Johnson’s apparent view at one stage of the pandemic (and may still be) that the majority who died would have died soon anyway and that the over 80’s aren’t worth crashing the economy for.

Fact: the life expectancy of an 80 year old man is 9 years and for a woman 10 years. After surviving another five years i.e. for an 85 year old man, life expectancy hasn’t reduced by five years to three, it is actually double that at 6 years and for a woman 7.

Boris Johnson is 57 so he should expect to reach 87, not as old as an 80 year old who has already survived the perils of the sixties and seventies.

On Tuesday’s BBC Today Programme the right wing libertarian (and old Etonian) Lord Sumption was interviewed on this subject but his erroneous statements on Covid statistics were not challenged during the interview.

Others did challenge them vigorously and the BBC did subject them to their own fact check on Wednesday.

In case there is any doubt amongst Owl’s readership here is the fact check on the interview.  20 July 2021

What was claimed in the Lord Sumption interview

No more than 100,000 people have died of Covid in the UK.

Our verdict

Incorrect. So far, 124,082 deaths have been recorded in England and Wales alone, where Covid itself was the underlying cause.

The virus has not killed over 100,000 people. What has happened is that a very large number of people have died with Covid, but not necessarily of Covid. The definition is anybody who has died within 28 days of a positive test is treated as a Covid death.

The former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption made several mistakes with Covid-19 data when talking about the disease on the Today programme this morning.

More than 100,000 people have died “of” Covid

First of all, he said that the virus had not killed more than 100,000 people, because many of the deaths recorded may have been people who were infected with Covid, but died for other reasons.

This is not true. The daily data on the number of people who have died after a positive test does include some people who died for other reasons. However, we also have data from death certificates, which records whether or not Covid itself was the “underlying cause”.

This shows that up to 2 July this year, 124,082 people died with Covid as the underlying cause of death in England and Wales alone.

On average, people who die of Covid lose about a decade of life

Lord Sumption went on to say that the people who died of Covid would soon have died anyway. He said: “At the age which they had reached, they would probably have died within a year after, as even Professor Ferguson has I think admitted.”  [1.19.00]

This is not supported by the evidence.

The mention of Professor Ferguson seems to be a reference to the government’s former scientific advisor’s comments before the Science and Technology Select Committee on 25 March 2020, when he said that the proportion of people dying of Covid in 2020 who would have died that year anyway “might be as much as half to two thirds of the deaths we are seeing from COVID-19”.

In other words, he was talking at a very early stage of the pandemic about what might be seen by the end of the year, not stating a fact, or predicting what the facts would be.

Research suggests that people dying of Covid lost far more than a year of life—about a decade on average. We have written about this in detail before. 

Thousands of people without comorbidities have died of Covid

Lord Sumption also said: “The number of people who have died who are not in highly vulnerable groups who have died without a sufficiently serious comorbidity to appear on the death certificate is very small. It’s a matter of hundreds and not thousands.” [1.19.42]

This is not true either. It seems that Lord Sumption is talking about the number of death certificates that mention Covid as the underlying cause but do not mention any pre-existing medical condition.

There were 15,883 of these deaths in England and Wales alone, up to the end of March 2021. All of them had Covid as the underlying cause.

If you added all the deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland too, the total would be higher.