Coronavirus deaths in Worthing care homes more than double national average

The percentage of coronavirus deaths occurring in Worthing care homes is more than double the national average.

Monday, 1st June 2020, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 5:22 pm

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that of the 65 people to have died with coronavirus in the town, 39 were in care homes or hospices.

That means 60 per cent of coronavirus deaths are in care homes and hospices – dwarfing the national average of 30.6 per cent.

Neighbouring Adur (56 per cent) and Arun (43 per cent) have also reported significantly higher proportions of care home deaths than the national average.

Beccy Cooper

Worthing’s Labour group accused West Sussex County Council of ‘neglect’ in April and leader Beccy Cooper has renewed her attack on the authority.

“The number of people who have died in our local care homes from Coronavirus is unacceptably high,” said the Marine ward councillor.

“It is a consequence of a sequence of failures that have seen our front line workers and some of the most vulnerable people in our society neglected and forgotten for too long. Care homes have been chronically underfunded for years, thanks to the Conservative policy of harsh austerity that has cut our care services to the bone.

“Local authorities like West Sussex County Council have farmed our care homes out to the private sector, from where key workers have had to do the best they can with shoestring budgets.

“It is absolutely no wonder that when this pandemic came along, the care services had no resources with which to respond. As the NHS panicked about over-stretched hospitals and emptied its beds back in to community care, our care homes took in covid-19 cases that they were ill-prepared to deal with.”

The statistics are based on incidents where coronavirus, known as covid-19, was mentioned on the death certificate.

A spokesman for the county council said the causes of the high numbers were ‘complex’, but that West Sussex has a larger elderly and vulnerable population than other counties.

The council will distribute £13.3million of Government funding to care homes, the spokesman said, with 75 per cent paid directly to homes at a rate of £975 per bed. The remaining quarter would be allocated based on local need.

A report to the county council cabinet, dated May 26, said Worthing had received £1,146,898 of coronavirus funding up to May 13, not including a third Government stimulus still to be allocated.

Testing in care homes would also be ramped up, the spokesman said, focusing first on over-65s and people with dementia.

Cabinet member for adults and health, Amanda Jupp, described claims the county council had not supported care homes as ‘misleading and inaccurate’.

“The comments do not reflect the dedication of council staff – themselves key workers who, working with the NHS and Public Health England, have been working tirelessly throughout the crisis to support colleagues in the care sector and the residents they support,” she said.

“We have worked with care settings to ensure they have access to the available NHS support including infection control, testing and community health and additional GP support.

“Although the 334 care homes in West Sussex are run as private, voluntary and independent businesses, we have been able to access personal protective equipment for many of them on request within 24 hours, as well as an agreed an uplift in fees for those people funded by the county.

“We are in regular dialogue with care providers across West Sussex and they know they can always contact us for help should they need it.”

Mrs Cooper, who is a public health consultant, said Labour was calling for two fundamental changes to improve care homes in Worthing.

A reform of national social care with ‘proper funding levels and actual integration with the health care service’ and the replacement of the county council with unitary authorities, including a coastal unitary for Worthing.

Unitary authorities divide large regions into smaller authorities, rather than one over-arching county council. A coastal unitary for Worthing would essentially have the combined responsibilities of the county and borough councils.

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