Deaths at home on Merseyside have increased yet most have not been caused by Covid-19, new figures have revealed.

According to statistics, home deaths are a third higher than normal this year.

Research by the Office for National Statistics has found while some of this may be a redistribution of deaths from hospitals and hospice to home, some conditions have seen deaths across England and Wales rise.

Between December 28 and October 2, 3,629 deaths were registered in Merseyside as having occurred at home.

That was 34% higher, or 925 more deaths, than the five-year average of 2,704 for the same period over 2015 to 2019.
Of the deaths at home in 2020, just 74 were related to Covid-19.

NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - the organisation which plans NHS healthcare services across the city - made clear that it wanted to understand what these figures tell us about the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives as well as their deaths.

As a result, the ECHO understand that the Liverpool CCG will be doing some further work on this with its public health colleagues.

Dr Fiona Lemmens said it is really important that people do not put off getting help if they need it

Dr Fiona Lemmens, a local GP and Chair of NHS Liverpool CCG, said it is important to seek help straight away.

Dr Lemmens said: “We know that during the first wave of coronavirus in the spring some people didn’t always seek help or advice about their health, either because they didn’t want to put extra pressure on the NHS, or because they were worried about catching the virus.

"It’s really important that you don’t put off getting help if you need it, and that you don’t discontinue any treatment unless your medical team tell you to.

“Across the NHS we’ve put in place systems to keep patients and staff safe, and reduce the spread of the virus.

"For example, if your GP or nurse decides that you do need to see someone face to face, you’ll find that your practice will have a system for keeping patients separate. Hospitals and community clinics have these arrangements too.

“Please also remember that when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, you should call 999 immediately, just as you usually would – especially if they think that they might be having a heart attack or stroke – every second counts with these conditions.”

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In England, the number of deaths in private homes registered between December 28 and September 11 was 108,842 - 25,472 deaths more than the five-year average.

In Wales, there were 7,440 deaths, 1,624 deaths more than the five-year average.

Sarah Caul, Head of Mortality Analysis at the ONS, said: “While deaths in hospitals and care homes have dropped below the five-year average since the initial peak of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve consistently seen deaths in private homes remain well above the five-year average.

"We have seen an overall increase of deaths as well as a redistribution of various causes of death. For instance, while deaths of heart disease are below average in hospital, it has been above average at home.

“It’s a similar picture when looking at prostate cancer for males and Dementia and Alzheimer's disease for females. Unlike the high numbers of deaths involving COVID-19 in hospitals and care homes, the majority of deaths in private homes are unrelated to COVID-19."

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For some diseases, the number of deaths this year is similar to previous years but they appear to have occurred at home instead of in hospital.

Deaths in private homes for men from Ischaemic heart diseases (IHD) increased by 26% in England and 23% in Wales compared with the five-year average, while deaths in hospitals decreased by 22% and 29% respectively.

Overall across all settings, there was an increase of 2% in England and a decrease of 3% in Wales in IHD deaths among men.

However, for other causes, deaths are up on last year, and more deaths are happening at home.

For women, deaths in private homes from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increased by 75% in England and 92% in Wales compared with the five-year average.

Overall, there has been an increase in deaths of women from these conditions across all settings (up 22% in England and 19% in Wales).

However, deaths in hospitals decreased by 41% in England and 26% in Wales, while deaths were up in care homes (32% and 29% respectively) as well as private homes.

The Alzheimer’s Society has warned the knock-on effect of Covid-19 restrictions has been interruptions and suspensions to health and social care services, upended routines, care home visitor restrictions and a prolonged period of social isolation for people with dementia.

It has said this may have contributed to earlier non-Covid-19 excess deaths in care homes, as well as leading to a deterioration in the conditions of those with the illness, potentially leading to increased loss of life this winter.

Among men, there has been an overall increase in deaths from both prostate cancer (up 4% in England and 12% in Wales) and colo-rectal cancers (up 4% and 1% respectively).

For both, there have been big increases in deaths at home, with falls in deaths in hospitals and hospices.

There have been concerns that people have been avoiding going to doctors about health worries because they fear catching coronavirus or don’t want to burden the health service.

In England, the NHS’s Help Us Help You access campaign will use TV adverts, billboards and social media to urge people to speak to their GP if they are worried about a symptom that could be cancer.

When cancer screening services restarted in Wales in June, Health Minister Vaughan Gething reiterated that cancer services in Wales have been continuing throughout the Covid pandemic and people with possible symptoms of cancer should not be put off seeking help and advice.