Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
Five U.K. charities sent a letter to the government Monday raising the alarm that the country’s care system for elderly people is being overwhelmed, arguing that care staff doesn’t have enough personal protective equipment and that the coronavirus deaths of older people in homes are not being counted in the government’s official statistics.
Leaders of the U.K. Alzheimers Society; Marie Curie; Age UK; Care England; and Independent Age all signed on to the Monday letter, pleading with the government to step up its efforts in caring and accounting for COVID-19 cases in those living in assiste-living facilities and the like in the U.K., arguing that “[o]lder people’s lives are not worth less.”
“A lack of protective equipment means staff are putting their own lives at risk while also carrying the virus to highly vulnerable groups,” the letter reads. “Care England estimates that there have been nearly a thousand deaths already, yet deaths from coronavirus in care homes are not being officially recorded or published, social care is the neglected frontline.”
The government, according to BBC, has been primarily counting coronavirus deaths that are happening in hospitals because it is easy to get an accurate daily number.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC the government is publishing weekly figures for deaths taking place in care facilities as those deaths are certified — a process that takes much longer than counting deaths in hospitals.
“The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Age UK Director Caroline Abrahams told the BBC.
The letter from the charities provides a list of requests for government relief for care homes, including PPE for caretakers who currently are dealing with a shortage, stepped-up testing, support to maintain communication between older people and their families, help on palliative care for those who do die and a better count of older people who die because of the coronavirus.
The letter asks for “[a] daily update on coronavirus deaths in the care system, just like deaths in the NHS, so that as a society we can understand the scale of the challenge we face.”
According to BBC, there have been coronavirus outbreaks at upwards of 2,000 assisted-living facilities in England alone.
As of Tuesday, the U.K. has seen more than 87,500 positive coronavirus cases and more than 11,000 deaths.