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Figures from the Office of National Statistics for England and Wales show over the past eighteen months there have been at least 74,745 excess deaths – deaths above the five-year average – in private homes. Only 8,759 (12 percent) involved COVID-19. The deaths at home figures from 7 March, 2020 to 17 September, 2021 are 37 percent higher than the 2015 – 2019 average and the numbers are continuing to climb. Last week was the 16th week in a row where the ONS reported extra or “excess” deaths.
The disturbing trend includes 15-19-year-old boys. Deaths in this group have risen by 30 percent between January and October this year compared to the same period in 2020 – from 355 to 462. This is 20 percent higher than the five-year average for this period which was 386.
Last night Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, called for an urgent inquiry into the circumstances behind the deaths to find out whether they could have been prevented.
He said: “More people are dying of non-covid causes and we continue to see a considerable and continuing rise in excess deaths this year not caused by Covid-19 and occurring mostly in the home. This is extremely concerning. It is urgent we now launch a proper inquiry to find out whether these deaths could have been prevented. The death certificates only give a snapshot of what is actually going on.
“We need to go beyond these and look at those deaths which may not have been covered by coroners. To understand the true cause and what can be done to reduce the high number of excess deaths, particularly those in the home setting.”
He added: “The government urgently needs accurate data on what is going on to prevent further excess deaths. Understanding this is also crucial to managing our response to the pandemic, ensuring we mitigate preventable problems may mean we never lockdown again.”
Dr Charles Levinson, Chief Executive of the private GP company, Doctorcall who has studied deaths at home throughout the pandemic, said: “Non-Covid excess deaths in the home and the surrounding silence is a scandal. The reasons will be many and complex, but we have to start asking difficult questions. I fully support calls for an inquiry which will do just that.”
He added: “Millions of people are still too scared, unwilling or unable to access the healthcare they need and these staggering numbers are one tragic consequence of that. Recently one of our medics visited an elderly man in his home. He had just experienced a severe heart attack, yet refused to go to a hospital out of fear of catching the virus.
Paramedics were called and the conversation was repeated – he was more worried about getting a covid infected than getting treatment for his serious heart attack. Government scare campaigns have left deep scars, with people of all ages suffering. It’s time to talk about the silent crisis happening in homes across the country.”
He added: “This is a scandal that has been ignored for too long.” The call for an inquiry is also supported by Sir Richard Thompson, former president of the Royal College of Physicians.
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Sir Richard said: “Why are so many people dying at home? It may be that they have been staying away from the hospital to keep away from Covid or so they do not burden the NHS. However, delayed diagnosis is dangerous and there is often so much more life-saving treatment available to those who present early. These excess deaths need to be investigated. If it is not possible to look at all of them then surveys could be carried out on samples of selected patients to see if they may have been treated and saved. We already have cancer survival rates that are among the worst in Europe. It is time to get as much evidence to find out what is going on.”
Dr Renee Hoenderkamp, a private GP who has examined excess mortality data said: “Whatever is going on here is a serious concern. We do not want people jumping to conclusions but we do want a thorough investigation, and quickly, into the causes because we need to stop it.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Any death is a tragedy for the family and loved ones that are left behind and our condolences go out to anyone who has been affected.
“Our record investment is helping to tackle the backlog and recover NHS services with an extra £2 billion this year, plus £8 billion more over the next three year to deliver an extra 9 million check, scans, and operations for patients across the country.
“Alongside this, we are committed to levelling up health and the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will support people of all ages, in all areas of the country, to live healthier lives and prevent illness.”
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