Special thanks to Amber Noel for keeping the Data Finder up to date!
Through our Social Care Data Finder project, we have been keeping an eye on the different datasets and statistics being released about adult social care in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.
It is encouraging to see the number of excess deaths in hospitals and care homes, reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), continues to decrease. However there is a lag in reduction of excess deaths at home which are still 32% higher than normal. In regularly refreshing the Data Finder, we can see what information is regularly updated and where there appear to be longer time intervals and, in some instances, persistent gaps.
In the latest iteration (available here), for example, some datasets have not been updated since our last version with respect to: occupational data, the devolved nations, ethnic groups, and care sector deaths. Given that there has been such intense scrutiny and public concern about many of these groups, it is somewhat surprising to find that official statistics about them are not being updated on the same schedule as others.
As COVID-19 progresses and we have seen the lifting of lockdown, and indeed a re-locking down in some places, we should think long and hard about what we have learned over recent weeks and months, and carefully consider how things need to change for the benefit of citizens. Something which has been very clear throughout is the difficulties which arise from the lack of access to sufficiently timely, granular and reliable social care data.
On Tuesday, the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) published a piece of research, commissioned by the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor modelling a possible winter flu epidemic when combined with a COVID-19 resurgence. The report, which also accounts for a backlog of non-COVID-19 care, as well as service disruption due to reconfigurations to reduce nosocomial (in hospital) transmissions of COVID-19, warns that a further 120,000 deaths, peaking in January/February 2021, could occur in the worst case scenario. However, notably, this work does not model deaths in care homes and the community.
The report consistently highlights concerns about care homes, but it is clear that there is a paucity of data about those working to support and in receipt of both domiciliary and residential care modelling exercises.
Between 2nd March and 12th June, there were 19,394 deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes, and in April care home deaths peaked at more than double the previous 5 year average. In this period the overall number of deaths in the UK was 42, 589. Given the impact of the first wave on those in receipt of care, this has major implications for our ability to accurately model what might happen next and put in place appropriate mitigations. The AMS report plainly states:
“To inform these existing surveillance systems and understand Covid-19 transmission dynamics, it is important to sustain and improve the quality and completeness of near real-time, granular data collection with more detailed reporting in time, place and person.”
We wholeheartedly agree with this, and there is now an urgent need for this to happen without delay. The Figure below from the ONS should serve as a reminder of why accounting for the social care sector is vitally important – in the absence of adequate data, some of the most vulnerable in society will be disproportionately placed at risk.
Note: The Data Finder was checked and updated at 17:00 Friday 17/07/2020. The aim is to maintain a data finder that can be used as a resource for social care research, so the timeline will be updated at regular intervals to capture the publication of new datasets and we welcome suggestions for inclusion.