Death toll raises questions around why the UK has been less successful in containing the impact of COVID-19 Health Foundation response to ONS analysis of weekly deaths not involving coronavirus in England and Wales

5 June 2020

About 2 mins to read

Commenting on Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis of death registrations not involving coronavirus in England and Wales (28 December 2019 to 1 May 2020), Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation, said:

'Today's analysis from the ONS sheds further light on the UK's death toll during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is amongst the highest in the world, with over 60,000 excess deaths compared to the same period over the last five years. This raises big questions around why the disease load has been so high and why UK has been less successful than other countries in containing the spread and impact of the virus.

'The analysis shows that 28% of the excess deaths have not been directly attributed to COVID-19. Understanding the causes of these deaths is important. The ONS data also show the particular impact that the pandemic has had on frail, older people – both in care homes and in the community – reflecting issues in the social care sector’s ability to protect the most vulnerable.

'Looking at mortality attributed to causes other than COVID-19, the figures show a shift in the number of excess deaths from hospitals to care homes and private homes. This is because fewer people are accessing hospital care due to fears about contracting coronavirus, and not wanting to add demand on the NHS. This is in part due to the necessary changes in how the NHS has directed people to different services, in part due to individual patient choice, and also the emphasis in government messaging on protecting the NHS. Further work will be needed to understand the impact these changes have already had, and will have in future, on overall mortality.

'It will be important to learn lessons from today's data about how to prevent avoidable loss of life if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases. This must include containment through an effective test and trace programme, a strong focus on protecting the vulnerable, and action to ensure people who need health care are able and confident to access it.'

Media contact

Simon Perry
020 7257 2093

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