Non-Covid deaths at home ‘need an inquiry’

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The group is backing a demand by the charity Hospice UK to investigate why more than 100,000 additional people have died at home since the start of the pandemic, compared to long-term averages.

Recent Hospice UK analysis suggests that around 67,000 people who died in their own home did not have proper end-of-life care.

Although Covid has been blamed for excess deaths in hospitals and care homes, the virus has accounted for only a minority of extra deaths in private homes.

The draft terms of reference for the Covid inquiry cover what happened in hospitals and care homes.

But they do not mention the rise in pandemic deaths in private homes.

A cross-party group of MPs, including Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Paul Maynard MP, Robert Halfon MP and Rachael Maskell MP, as well as charities such as Marie Curie, Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, have backed Hospice UK’s call for the terms to be amended.

They have made their request in a letter to inquiry chair Baroness Hallett.

Dominic Carter, head of policy and research at Hospice UK, said: “The numbers of people dying at home presents a very real challenge for our health and care system.

“Through our Dying Matters campaign we’ve heard stories of very poor care and quite distressing experiences. We know how hard staff have worked and we applaud their dedication and compassion but we believe they need better support.

“Without closer investigation into what happened to people dying at home we won’t know what they experienced, and thousands more could still miss out on the expert care they deserve. The inquiry is an opportunity not just to examine what happened in the past two years but to help find solutions to a challenge that is not going away.

“Our ageing population and complexity of illnesses mean many more people will die at home in the future.”

“It’s vital to make sure the right support is in place in the community and staff have the right skills to support people with pain relief, symptom management, and emotional and practical support.”

A total of 48 politicians have supported Hospice UK’s call, along with 31 charities and other institutions.

Deaths in private homes have been consistently above average since the early weeks of the pandemic, even when lockdown restrictions were eased in various parts of the country.

At the peak of the second wave of the virus early last year, during full lockdown, excess deaths in homes in England and Wales numbered 1,200 to 1,300 a week. But during the summer, when comparatively few rules were in place, deaths still numbered 700 to 900 a week.

Since the start of this year the figure has been between 400 and 600.

Only 12 per cent of excess deaths in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic have involved Covid.

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