Salford Mayor questions numbers on care home deaths

The Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, has called on government to provide better support for social care and care homes after shocking national statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday revealed the impact of COVID-19 on the city and across England and Wales.

Salford has higher numbers than elsewhere in Greater Manchester, but Salford health officials believe this is down to their proactive local response in recognising cases. In particular, local officials believe that proactive testing and recognition of symptoms in care homes over the past three weeks has increased the number of cases that has been captured.

In an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Mayor blasts government for not implementing mass testing and for dropping ‘contact-tracing’ – letting people know if they have been close to someone infected by the disease to self-isolate.

Commenting on the letter, Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “Our deepest sympathies are with all the Salford families, friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones since the COVID-19 pandemic broke. The number of deaths published in ONS data for Salford care homes is devastating and a shocking testament to the impact of coronavirus on our elderly and vulnerable population in the city."

Councillor Gina Reynolds, lead member for adult services, health and wellbeing added: “The sad and deplorable statistics show just the scale of the challenge facing the care sector. Care workers are doing an exemplary job to support our vulnerable residents. And we are doing our very best locally to support them. They have been under immense pressure and deserve recognition and a better deal from government.”

In his letter the Mayor states:

“In Salford we have been tracking the level of infections and deaths in our care homes since the very early days of the current pandemic, utilising a strong integrated partnership between the City Council, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Salford Royal Foundation Trust, and care providers.

“We know that Salford saw outbreaks earlier than in other areas and our figures for both infections and deaths in care settings reflect this earlier pattern. There has been testing in care homes in Salford for a number of weeks. For far too long there was no community testing and as we know contact tracing within official PHE guidance was dropped as we exited the containment phase, with outbreaks being managed on symptoms alone. Without this testing, and on the advice of the Director of Public Health, in Salford we took the early decision with our care homes to isolate all residents regardless of symptoms and to have a high level of suspicion that any atypical symptoms could be COVID-19. This approach means we understand the spread of COVID-19 well.

“Salford has developed its own local testing facility for symptomatic health and care staff and their families operating from the AJ Bell Stadium, operated and run by local council and hospital workers. This is providing a local, easily accessible service with transport arrangements and is helping to keep staff safely in work. We have had robust reporting of infections and deaths from the very beginning, and we believe this work is potentially reflected in our higher than average mortality figures.”

Mayor Dennett added:

“It is shocking that government have not introduced mass testing and contact-tracing for all symptomatic people as the current numbers of cases at best creates false pictures. It keeps from people the true scale and impact of this pandemic on real people, families, friends, colleagues and loved ones.  At worst this means we do not have an accurate understanding of the disease and how to support our key workers residents now or during the next few weeks and months as we hopefully move to recovery."

The letter also calls for more and better-quality PPE for care homes. In contradiction of government claims that there is adequate PPE in the system, the letter claims that the Council and health professionals in Salford are having to supplement national supplies with locally sourced materials.

“We are in daily contact with every care home in the city. Ensuring an adequate supply of appropriate PPE is a constant challenge. National emergency supplies via the GM LRF are simply insufficient to meet need. Too often what is delivered is well short of the orders placed or the delivery expected. We are only able to provide what our care homes urgently need because of the additional efforts of partners locally to secure PPE direct from international and national suppliers. Our Greater Manchester system is currently and will be expected to continue to source more PPE than we’re receiving from government.”

The letter also notes:

“Social care should no longer be treated as a poor relations to the NHS. Both are critical front line services, essential to the wellbeing of people in Salford and especially in this era of integrated health and social care.”

Note #1: Our adult social care is managed by the Salford Care Organisation at Salford Royal and funded in partnership between the foundation trust and the city council.

Note #2: The following tables show ONS data broken down both by general deaths, and deaths attributable to COVID 19 within GM. When COVID-19 deaths are removed, Salford no longer has the highest rate of overall deaths in care homes in Greater Manchester and the difference between Salford and other authorities is less.

2 tables, first shows COVID-19 deaths in GM by place of death to 10 April – second has all deaths.

Table 1 - COVID-19 deaths in GM by place of death. Deaths to 10 April 2020

Area name Home Hospital Care home Hospice Other communal establishment Elsewhere Total % in care home
Bolton 1 46 9 1 0 1 58 16%
Bury 2 41 4 0 0 1 48 8%
Manchester 4 81 10 1 0 0 96 10%
Oldham 5 49 12 0 0 1 67 18%
Rochdale 5 55 6 0 0 0 66 9%
Salford 0 84 46 0 0 0 130 35%
Stockport 3 70 15 0 0 0 88 17%
Tameside 5 53 7 0 1 1 67 10%
Trafford 0 34 4 0 0 0 38 11%
Wigan 1 43 3 0 0 0 47 6%
GM 26 556 116 2 1 4 705 16%

Table 2 - All deaths in GM by place of death. Deaths to 10 April 2020

Area name Home Hospital Care home Hospice Other communal establishment Elsewhere Total % in care home
Bolton 208 446 210 62 0 11 937 22%
Bury 122 279 137 40 0 9 587 23%
Manchester 239 643 198 34 2 12 1128 18%
Oldham 159 352 184 22 1 12 730 25%
Rochdale 168 351 142 54 0 5 720 20%
Salford 165 463 231 30 5 8 902 26%
Stockport 205 512 242 34 4 7 1004 24%
Tameside 129 455 147 51 6 8 796 18%
Trafford 169 341 135 19 0 4 668 20%
Wigan 220 505 211 63 1 8 1008 21%
GM 1784 4347 1837 409 19 84 8480 22%

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Date published
Friday 24 April 2020

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