United Kingdom

Coronavirus UK: Care home deaths jump ten-fold in a week

The deepening crisis unfolding in Britain's care homes amid the coronavirus crisis was laid bare today as families revealed their harrowing stories of loved ones being abandoned to die.  

Grieving relatives told MailOnline how elderly family members were not admitted to hospital and refused visits by GPs, who have been accused of being 'ageist' and avoiding care homes.

Grim statistics released today also showed the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes rose ten-fold by the start of April, up from just 20 for the week ending March 27. 

A breakdown of data collated by the Office for National Statistics revealed 195 (5.6 per cent) of the 3,475 COVID-19 related deaths in England and Wales during that week occurred in care homes. It means up to 678 elderly residents could have died in care homes, if the same maths was applied on top of the UK's current death toll of 12,107 - which only takes into account hospitalised patients.  

Donna Millan's 73-year-old mother, who lived in a nursing home, died on April 9 with COVID-19 symptoms. But she was never swabbed for the killer infection - despite repeated pleas from her family. Ms Millan told MailOnline: 'We believe my mum would not have contracted COVID-19 and would still be alive had things been managed better.' 

And Elaine Shirt had to put her father Cyril Lawrence, 99, into respite in a care home after her mother was taken ill recently and needed hospital care. But by the time her mother was sent home, Ms Shirt's father, a former footballer for Blackpool FC, had contracted coronavirus. He is now fighting for his life in hospital. 

Other furious families revealed GPs were failing to go into care homes to test the elderly, claiming family doctors were purposely avoiding going into homes amid the crisis.

Hayden Hewitt's mother-in-law, Annie, 83, passed away last Friday after a GP refused to visit her care home in Tameside, Manchester, and the NHS 'categorically' denied to send her an ambulance as she displayed coronavirus symptoms. Mr Hewitt told MailOnline: 'For older people, my concern for many of the others is if you're showing any symptoms or you're just ill, it's a very short step to palliative care now.'

The Royal College of GPs has already urged staff to keep face-to-face visits to a 'minimum' amid the coronavirus crisis. But it says 'appropriate arrangements' should be made for patients in care homes. It has been claimed that some GPs are refusing to send elderly patients - who would be put to the back of the queue for critical care because of their frailty - to hospital. 

It comes after the boss of Britain's largest care home operator today suggested that two thirds of all homes across Britain have recorded coronavirus cases. Around 500,000 people are in care homes in Britain.

Care sector bosses also accused doctors of 'airbrushing' coronavirus off of the death certificates of Britain's most vulnerable, sparking fears the UK's true death toll is much higher than official figures. 

Number 10 is now under mounting pressure to start recording all coronavirus deaths, wherever they happen, amid the accusations the true toll is being swept under the carpet.  

The UK's care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission, today said it was stepping in to collect daily numbers of coronavirus deaths. Currently the ONS is the only body recording data - but it is two weeks behind.  

In England up to April 3 - but registered up to April 11 - 5,979 mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate, compared with 5,186 deaths in hospitals in the same period. That means 793 more people in the country have died outside of hospital as a result of coronavirus

Left, Cyril Lawrence, 99,is now in hospital after falling ill at a care home. Right, Carole Foster, 77, passed away last Wednesday at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, just one day after being admitted

Left, Debbie Cholwill said her mother, who had dementia and was living in a care home, passed away on April 10 after testing positive for coronavirus. Right, Chris Schmid told MailOnline his great aunt Isabel Francis, 94, passed away in Fieldway care home in Mitcham, South London on Friday, April 10

Mark Gordon fears his mother Susan (above), a 76-year-old terminally-ill cancer patient, is too weak to fight off coronavirus after contracting the infection while at a Tayside care home. He claims staff did not use PPE when dealing with patients

NICE recommends NHS clinicians use the controversial Clinical Frailty Scale when considering patients for intensive care. It ranks patients' frailty from one to nine and is designed to prioritise those most likely to recover from the killer virus.

The most vulnerable coronavirus patients could be denied critical care under a new NHS scoring system designed to free up ICU beds for those most likely to recover. Sources say the draft guidance was scrapped and will not be implemented

WHAT DO TODAY'S STATISTICS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS-RELATED DEATHS TELL US? 

The ONS released a series of startling figures today which laid bare the true scale of England's coronavirus crisis.

It broke down the deaths recorded from all across the country, not just the hospitals - which are the figures collated by NHS England.

ONS data showed there had been 3,950 deaths registered across England by April 3, since the first fatality was officially announced on March 5.

But this number jumped to 5,979 when accounting for a recording delay, including all deaths up to April 3 that were registered by April 11.

In contrast, that is 15 per cent higher than the figure given by NHS England (5,186) - which tallies up the number of actual hospital deaths for each day.

The ONS figures suggested there is an extra 793 deaths which mentioned COVID-19 that weren't recorded by health officials.

This is because the ONS count applies to deaths in any location, such as care homes and hospices.

It was also a massive 52 per cent higher than the 3,939 deaths in England that were announced up to April 3 by the Department of Health.

This is because Government figures - also based on hospital deaths - are not backdated (unlike the NHS) and do not relate to the day on which they occurred.

The ONS also releases a separate set of figures, which breakdown exactly where the deaths occurred in any given week.

The data does, however, not include the full-set of figures. It only goes off the days of registrations - and not occurrences.

It showed 195 of the 3,475 COVID-19 fatalities recorded in England and Wales during week 14 were in care homes - the equivalent of 5.6 per cent. In comparison, there were just 20 the week before and two the week before that.

Another 170 deaths were declared outside of hospitals, including in hospices or their own homes.

ONS statisticians then crunched dating back three weeks, to when the first COVID-19 deaths were confirmed in care homes.

It showed that 90.2 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths recorded up to April 3 had been in hospitals (3,716).

The other 406 were in care homes (217 - 5.3 per cent), at home (136 - 3.3 per cent) and in a hospice (33 - 0.8 per cent).

Other ONS figures - which took into account another 2,000 deaths registered at a later point - suggested the UK's true death toll could actually be around 50 per cent higher than official figures.

Official data published by the Department of Health up to April 3 showed there had been 3,939 deaths - drastically lower than the 5,979 recorded by the Government statisticians and 5,186 by NHS England.

Labour's Shadow Minister for Social Care, Liz Kendall, said the care home situation is 'extremely worrying' and that a daily death toll is 'urgently needed';  

The chairwoman of the National Care Association said care homes were having to buy their own PPE - and even fork out VAT, which is removed for the NHS;

  • A lack of testing outside of hospitals means care home residents are being missed from coronavirus statistics - providers are being urged to record suspected cases;
  • England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty revealed that nearly 100 more homes had reported outbreaks in the past 24 hours. He said more than 13 per cent had now been hit nationally by the deadly disease, the equivalent of a staggering 2,200 homes;
  • A whistle-blower accused some doctors of 'airbrushing' coronavirus off the death certificates of society's most vulnerable;
  • And an ex-cabinet minister claimed care home residents were being abandoned like 'lambs to the slaughter' during the crisis;
  • The threat from coronavirus in care homes is now so grave that terrified staff are refusing to work.

    Data collected by the Office for National Statistics showed there were around 4,100 COVID-19-related deaths registered by April 3 in England and Wales.

    Just 5.3 per cent of those fatalities (217) were recorded as having happened in care homes, but experts and industry insiders say the true figure is likely to be much higher. 

    Hospital deaths accounted for 90.2 per cent of all officially recorded COVID-19 deaths (3,716) up to that point.

    GPS VOTED TO STOP VISITING CARE HOMES JUST MONTHS BEFORE COVID-19 CRISIS HIT

    GPs voted to stop visiting care homes just two months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, amid claims the elderly are being left to die.

    Home visits have been a cornerstone of general practice for decades – and 10,000 are carried out across England each day.

    But in November regional health bosses voted 54 per cent in favour of scrapping a rule in GP contracts which say they must take call-outs when a patient is too ill to make it to hospital.

    The controversial move was proposed because visiting the elderly took used valuable time - but campaigners said the decision would be disastrous for the housebound, vulnerable, elderly and dying.  

    Now, as the coronavirus sweeps across residential care homes, GPs have been labelled 'ageist' for reducing their visits. 

    Despite the vote to scrap home visits, NHS England guidance due to come in September 2020 will require GPs to visit care homes at least every fortnight. 

    Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that family doctors would keep face-to-face visits to a 'minimum' - including to care homes, saying it would keep residents and staff safe.

    The British Medical Association - the UK's largest union for doctors - argued that healthcare workers remain 'absolutely committed to their patients'. 

    But Liz Kendall, Labour's Shadow Minister for Social Care, argued there should be no changes to how the elderly are treated despite the pandemic.

    She said: 'It's vital that people in care homes continue to receive the same standard of medical attention and care that they would before this pandemic, and that includes being transferred to hospital if they need to be there.'  

    But a lack of testing anywhere else in the community suggests there are deaths going untracked in care homes, people's own houses and hospices.

    Existing figures already suggest that the gap could be 15 per cent more on top of the official death toll announced each day by the Government. Coronavirus deaths registered up to April 11 totalled 5,186 in hospitals but 5,979 by death certificate counts. 

    The official Department of Health death toll stands at 12,107 - meaning almost around 700 deaths could have been recorded in care homes, if the same percentage applied to the overall count. 

    Stricken family members who have lost loved ones to coronavirus in care homes have laid bare the devastating reality of the deepening crisis. 

    Ms Millan told MailOnline: '[My mother] had been mostly unresponsive for almost a week. She was not given IV for fluids and was kept in the care home as they considered moving her too distressing. 

    'Some of the residents were swabbed after showing symptoms on the Monday and Tuesday last week, and four residents and a carer were confirmed positive. 

    'My mum wasn't swabbed despite requests, we were told Public Health wouldn't swab there again as there were already confirmed cases. There were, and are, lots of suspected cases there and all residents are being kept in isolation.

    'My mum had dementia but was otherwise healthy. We heard rumours about testing and were only told of the swabbing then confirmed cases when I asked. 

    'The nursing staff did as they could and said Public Health were discouraging elderly people in care from being taken to hospital.' 

    Debbie Cholwill said her mother passed away on April 10. 

    On Facebook, she wrote: 'It is with deep sadness that I am putting this message on sadly after six years of my mum being in a care home with dementia she sadly passed away last night, after testing positive for Coronavirus. 

    ONLY 500 CARE WORKERS HAVE BEEN TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS 

    Only 500 care workers across the UK have been tested for the coronavirus, according to figures released by the Government today.

    It comes after the Health Secretary pledged last week that all 'key social care staff' could now be swabbed for COVID-19 if necessary.

    Labour described the figures provided by Downing Street as 'very worrying', given that around 1.5million people work in social care. 

    Shadow Social Care Minister Liz Kendall said Number 10 must 'act urgently' to ensure front line care staff get the testing and PPE they need'.

    The Government claimed that 47,784 NHS workers and their family members have been tested over the past fortnight - including almost 2,500 yesterday.

    'What makes it more difficult to except we could not be with her, because of the lock down, I now have to live with the guilt of her dying alone, I know she is at peace now and suffering no more.

    'I just hold her in my heart and treasure the memories I have of a wonderful mum, nan, and great great grandmother RIP and fly high love you mum.'

    One woman on Twitter - called Lydia - wrote: 'My mum is in a care home. She has been very poorly but the GP won't go and see her as they are avoiding going into care homes.'

    Chris Schmid told MailOnline his great aunt Isabel Francis, 94, passed away in Fieldway care home in Mitcham, South London on Friday, April 10.

    He said: 'The official cause of death has been recorded as a stroke however we would like to have her body tested for COVID-19.'

    Mr Schmid said his mother, 'raised concerns about the possibility of coronavirus due to Isabel's rapid deterioration in health.'

    Mrs Francis had been a resident at the £1,000-a-week care home since September 2018.

    Mr Schmid said added: 'I visited care home last week and can confirm staff are not wearing PPE. We are not aware of any other residents diagnosed with COVID-19 however no one is being tested.'

    Left, George Hillhouse's 74-year-old mother, Helen Smith, died at Almond Court care home in Drumchapel on Saturday. Right, Avice Howarth's mother, who was living in a care home. passed away on April 10

    Data collected by the Office for National Statistics showed there were around 4,100 deaths registered by the week ending April 3 in England and Wales. Slightly less than 10 per cent of the deaths occurred in hospices, care homes and private homes, according to the analysis

    Debbie Cholwill said her mother (pictured) passed away on April 10. On Facebook, she wrote: 'It is with deep sadness that I am putting this message on sadly after six years of my mum being in a care home with dementia she sadly passed away last night, after testing positive for Coronavirus'

    Ms Cholwill paid tribute to her beloved mother after her death just days ago 

    CARE HOMES ARE HAVING TO BUY THEIR OWN PPE - AND EVEN PAY VAT ON TOP 

    The chairwoman of the National Care Association today said care homes were struggling to source and pay for PPE and prices were 'not sustainable'.

    Nadra Ahmed said the Government had removed VAT on the essential kit for the NHS and urged it to do the same for the social care sector.

    Ms Ahmed said one provider had paid £8,500 for just one week's worth of PPE, adding: 'We've said to the Chancellor 'take the VAT off PPE, these are essential items'.

    'They've taken it off for the NHS but they've not moved it for social care... without our staff we can't deliver the care.'

    Ms Ahmed added: 'If the social care sector fails, if there is provider failure, the problem is going to be much bigger for the Government and I think it's very short-sighted of them not to have focused on social care much earlier.'  

    The crisis is also affecting staff. Some carers have already walked out because they are petrified of 'running the gauntlet' every day without safety gear.

    They fear catching the disease themselves or spreading it to loved ones or those they are supposed to be looking after. 

    Elaine Shirt had to put her 'lovely' father Cyril Lawrence, 99, into respite in a care home after her mother was taken ill recently and went into hospital. 

    Ms Shirt said her parents were due to return home when the care home her father was in went into lockdown, so he remained there. But he is now fighting for his life after falling ill over the weekend. 

    Aged 19, in 1939, Mr Lawrence lied about his age in order to register for national service before conscription was introduced. 

    A budding football player who was on the verge of signing for Blackpool United, he was deployed on the brand new battleship HMS King George V, assigned to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

    He spent more than five years serving on the ship, which performed an active combat role and witnessed some of the most historic episodes of the war, including the pursuit and sinking of the Bismarck and the surrender of Japan. 

    Ms Shirt told MailOnline: 'All was well until Good Friday. We had video calls with him, he looked really well and on Sunday enjoyed his evening meal and even asked if could have had a little more. An hour later, an ambulance arrived and he was taken into hospital.

    'I then tried contacting the hospital and at 4am a lovely Consultant phoned to say my dad was extremely poorly. It was a big shock. He was put on oxygen, fluids and antibiotics and swabs for the virus taken.

    'At 8pm last night my mum and I said goodbye to my dad. Mun told him as I did how much he was loved. He couldn't speak but we were told he could hear us. It was heartbreaking and the two lovely nurses wearing masks and gloves broke down crying with us. 

    CARE QUALITY COMMISSION WILL RECORD COVID-19 DEATHS 

    As pressure grows on the authorities to better record deaths from the coronavirus in residential care homes, the sector regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it will now start to keep a record.

    The CQC is an independent organisation which inspects and regulates hospitals, doctors' surgeries, care homes and other healthcare facilities.   

    The body has announced it will start recording the deaths itself in a bid to improve transparency.

    The CQC said that a lack of testing outside of hospitals meant many cases were being missed, and urged homes to include suspected cases in their reports in future, according to ITV News. 

    It is hoped the new data will be faster and more up to date than current recording, which is done by the Office for National Statistics and comes out once per week, but is backdated almost two weeks. The most recent data only covers the period up to April 3. 

    'I never in a million years thought this would happen at the end of life. My dad is battling on but it's just a question of time now.

    'Dad is the longest surviving player of Blackpool Rochdale and Wrexham football clubs. 

    'He's a battler and I know he's doing his utmost to beat this but I know he won't. I'm waiting totally heartbroken supporting my mum. 

    'My mum will be 100 on June 3, and dad 100 on the 12th. To be cruelly taken like this is just so very sad.' 

    Mr Lawrence's early career at sea was spent on the Arctic convoys delivering aid and essential supplies to the Soviet Union.

    He represented the Royal Navy at football, appearing in exhibition matches in Cairo and Alexandria and against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

    Avice Howarth's mother passed away on April 10. 

    Posting on Facebook, Avice wrote: 'My mum passed away in a care home without any off her family at her side, she'd been ill but it was the corona virus that finally took her. RIP mum.'

    Trisha Lynch paid an emotional tribute to her brother, who died in a nursing home yesterday morning. 

    She wrote on Facebook: 'Please pray for my brother who passed away earlier this morning. 

    'The nursing home where he was in, lost three patients during the night. I'm totally heartbroken. May he Rest In Peace.'

    Jane Rudge's mother, Margaret Guise, is a resident at Hopwood Court care home in Alvechurch, Worcestershire. 

    She said: 'They have had their first confirmed corona resident in the last few days after their transfer to hospital. 

    'I understand several of the other residents, including my 94-year-old mother, are now ill and the manager would like all staff and residents to be tested but is receiving no help at all from any of the public bodies - CCG, PHE, Council, etc. 

    'This is becoming a dire situation that needs to be addressed urgently. 

    'There has been no attempt to test, and the manager cannot find anyone who will offer this. The staff are being amazing but it is a terrible burden for them to carry on working in such conditions.'  

    The daughter of a pensioner who died after contracting coronavirus has raised concerns about her care.

    Carole Foster passed away last Wednesday at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, just one day after being admitted.

    The 77-year-old had been admitted there from Rochester Care Home.

    Her daughter Tracey Bonfield told Kent Online she was called by a worker at the home and told her mother was unwell with a suspected urine infection.

    Ms Bonfield said: 'She then said, 'I'm going to be really honest. We had residents who went to hospital with Covid-19 and we think she has got it'.'  

    Jane Rudge's mother (pictured left and right), is a resident at Hopwood Court care home in Alvechurch, Worcestershire. The 94-year-old is now ill, with suspected Covid-19

    Elaine Shirt had to put her 'lovely' father Cyril Lawrence, 99, into respite in a care home after her mother was taken ill recently and went into hospital. Pictured, Mr Lawrence (front row, third from left) with Stan Mortensen (front row, sixth from left) at Blackpool in 1939

    Case study one: Fifth of our residents have died

    Nearly a fifth of residents at one care home have died after they developed coronavirus symptoms.

    The outbreak at Stanley Park Care Home in Stanley, County Durham, has claimed the lives of 13 occupants.

    The deaths occurred after one resident died in hospital in March. Another patient is in hospital with the virus.

    Stanley Park Care Home in County Durham, has lost 13 occupants

    Care UK, which runs the home, said that, while all the residents who had died showed virus symptoms, only one had officially tested positive for Covid-19.

    The 71-bed residential home provides around-the-clock care for those aged over 65 and dementia sufferers. A relative of one patient said the deaths were 'terribly distressing' for staff. He said: 'I know they are all devastated at the loss of 13 residents, which isn't far from 20 per cent of the total.

    'You can imagine because of some of the residents having one-to-one care, it's like losing a member of your family.'

    Care UK's regional director Karen Morrison said: 'My heart goes out to the families and friends of residents who have passed away over the past few days. We are all thinking of them at this difficult time and send our condolences and best wishes. The manager and her team continue to be absolutely amazing and I cannot thank them enough.

    'I'd like to reassure everyone, including relatives of those in the home, that we are doing everything in our power to keep people safe and comfortable. We have all the necessary PPE and we continue to use it meticulously as we have since the first case was seen at the end of last month.' 

    After she passed away, doctors confirmed Mrs Foster had tested positive for coronavirus.

    Ms Bonfield, 53, believes her mother should have been admitted to hospital sooner. 

    She told Kent Online: 'She went into a coma and I agreed to no ventilator because of her age. 

    'The cough was unbelievable. They put her on full strength oxygen. To see someone in that state, coughing and gasping for breath, it's awful.'

    She added: 'I was one of the lucky ones, I got to see my mum.'

    A spokesman for the company declined to comment on whether residents had been tested or if any other residents or staff had the illness. 

    In a statement, Agin Care said: 'The death of any resident in our care home is always a sad time and our heartfelt condolences go out to the family during this difficult time.

    'We are proud of the good reputation Rochester Care Home holds and we continue to put our residents' care at the centre of everything we do.

    'We would like to reassure our residents' families and friends that our management and care teams are taking all necessary steps possible to ensure the safety of all of our residents and staff during the current challenging and unprecedented times.

    'Rochester Care Home continues to carefully follow the government and Public Health England guidance on all aspects of care delivery, recommended use of personal and protective equipment and restricted access to the care home in relation to the current pandemic situation.'

    George Hillhouse's 74-year-old mother, Helen Smith, died at Almond Court care home in Drumchapel on Saturday.

    Mrs Smith, who had vascular dementia, had been living in the home for four years.

    Five elderly residents have died at Almond Court in recent days, according to The Scottish Sun.

    One staff member is also reportedly ill at the 42-bed care home.

    Mr Hillhouse told STV News his mother was 'the life and soul of the party' and 'cherished her grand kids more than anything'.

    He added: 'It was a horrible situation to be in and to be there on your own makes it difficult.  

    'You're sitting there with a gown, you're sitting there with masks and you're sitting there with gloves which all of the staff at Almond Court did have. Every time they came into mum's room the PPE was there for them.

    'I will never see my mum again now that she's passed because of the Covid 19 restrictions. What I can't get my head around is why people in care homes, residents and staff, are not being tested for Covid-19.

    'So you're getting the death certificate through, which I have got through this morning by email, and it's a presumed Covid-19 and it's not fair that the staff and the other residents are not being tested.'

    The son of a 79-year-old man who died in a care home from coronavirus said the tragic number of deaths in care homes is being 'airbrushed'.

    Roger Lemin was one of an unknown number of residents at the Roseland Court care home in Tregony, Cornwall, to have died. An inquiry into the deaths is being carried out by Cornwall Council.

    Mr Lemin's son Roger said today: 'These people are absolute heroes in dealing with what is an unprecedented situation foe them.

    'I really do think they need help. I think they need to sit down and have a grown up conversation about what is going on in these care homes and how we can change the model that they are using as some way of restricting the chance of infection coming into the care homes and wreaking havoc.

    'Obviously the fact that these deaths in care homes are not being recorded anywhere or certainly not recorded in the daily statistics that we all look at does give the impression that this whole tragedy is being airbrushed from the rhetoric and news that we hear every day.

    A Roseland Court spokesman said: 'Our thoughts and sympathies are with all families who have lost a loved one from coronavirus and we are doing out utmost to support them. We have a comprehensive coronavirus contingency plan in place. PPE supplies in all our homes, including Roseland Court, are currently very good.'

    It comes after Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the UK's independent social care service, alleged one doctor wrote to a home refusing to visit pensioners, saying they will not be admitted to hospital amid the pandemic.

    He claimed it was an individual case, but expressed concern over the letter showing a wider culture of ageism in Britain.

    Tammy, a home carer Pembroke in Wales, revealed elderly patients outwith care homes were facing similar problems.

    She was told by the Argyle Medical Group that a GP would not come to treat her 72-year-old client if he started showing COVID-19-like symptoms.

    The patient – who is frail and suffers from dementia – also has heart problems which heightens his risk of dying from the vicious virus.

    Tammy told MailOnline: 'It's my job to care for my client. So I rang up Argyle Medical Group and asked what to do if he shows symptoms [of the virus].

    'I was told the doctor would definitely not visit because there is a risk the doctor could get infected.

    'I was shocked. They have a job to do like everyone else, including me, and that job is to care for people who need it. I've informed the family who were just as shocked.'

    'We have lost an exemplary professional and caring mother,  taken from us far too early': TWO care home nurses die from coronavirus as bosses warn lack of testing is 'placing both staff and residents at risk'

    A care home nurse who died after contracting Covid-19 has been described as a 'wonderful human being' by her colleagues.

    Rahima Bibi Sidhanee, who had worked at Grennell Lodge Nursing Home for over 30 years, was admitted to hospital a week ago and died on Sunday.

    In a tribute the director of Care Unlimited, which operates the privately-owned care home in Sutton, south London, raised concerns about a lack of testing for staff in the social care sector.

    Danny Shamtally said there was an 'urgent need' for testing of care home staff as he remembered Ms Sidhanee as a friend who was dedicated to her profession.

    Rahima Bibi Sidhanee, who had worked at Grennell Lodge Nursing Home for over 30 years, was admitted to hospital a week ago and died on Sunday. Right, Elsie Sazuze, 44, fell ill at home before being taken to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, where she died last Wednesday

    He said in a statement on Tuesday: 'Our family recollection of her is of a person of extreme kindness, selflessness and impeccable loyalty and integrity. Rahima loved nursing and the people she cared for, their happiness was of great importance to her and she would go above and beyond in her delivery of care.'

    Ms Sidhanee trained at Edgware General Hospital in the 1970s, and was a registered nurse and midwife with nearly 50 years' experience.

    She was also a 'very good cook' who made Caribbean and Indian food for residents at the home - in her own time and at her own expense, according to Mr Shamtally. He said that she trained with 'old school values' and would ensure that her residents were 'clean, well-presented and comfortable'.

    'In 30 years of service there has never been any reproach about her care and professionalism,' he said.

    'Always calm and collected, with a subtle sense of humour, she had the ability to diffuse tension. Most importantly, her residents spoke highly of her. There is so much one can say about this wonderful human being.

    'We have lost an exemplary professional, a caring mother and a very good friend taken from us far too early.'

    Mr Shamtally said that although the privately-owned care home appeared to be 'virus free', he said a lack of testing was 'placing both staff and residents at risk'.

    He said: 'Whilst the home Rahima worked for, Grennell Lodge in Sutton, appears without testing to be virus free, we feel strongly that the lack of appropriate testing for staff and residents leaves many care homes like ours are in a position where we do not know if staff are emergent or asymptomatic carriers of the virus, placing both staff and residents at risk.

    'Judging by the increasing numbers of care homes reporting residents and staff dying with the virus, there is an urgent need for adequate testing.'

    Mr Shamtally added that he had voiced concerns about a lack of testing to the NHS Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group and social services.

    'The testing being trailed in our locality is focused on staff who have symptoms and are already isolating,' he said. Requiring them to attend testing centres in remote locations without consideration that many working in the care sector in our region do not drive.

    'It is clearly apparent that the testing is well below what should be expected in order to keep the spread of infection under reasonable control.' 

    Mother-of-two, Elsie Sazuze, 44, leaves behind husband Ken, son Andrew, 22 and daughter Anna, 16

    Meanwhile Elsie Sazuze, 44, fell ill at home before being taken to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, where she died last Wednesday.

    The mother-of-two, from Birmingham, leaves behind husband Ken, son Andrew, 22 and daughter Anna, 16.

    Her childhood friend William Fungatira has today paid tribute as he released an album of pictures on behalf of her family. Mr Fungatira said: 'I have known her all my life. Elsie was as a naturally quiet person but very caring, friendly, cheerful and resilient. She had a passion to always help others.

    'She was dedicated to helping people. I remember every time we visited their home she always welcomed us with great hospitality.

    'It's a great loss to all of us who knew her and indeed to the wider community because she lost her life doing the job she loved. She will be greatly missed.'

    Mrs Sazuze, originally from Malawi, had trained and worked at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton. She was employed by Wolverhampton-based care agency Totallycare and worked in Cannock, Staffordshire. 

    Boss of Britain's largest care operator claims TWO THIRDS of homes have had coronavirus

    Sir David Behan, non-executive chairman of HC-One, revealed 311 residents and one member of staff have died in its homes as a result of suspected COVID-19. 

    And he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 2,400 cases of either suspected or confirmed coronavirus have been recorded in 232 of its 330 homes. He also agreed the two-thirds figure was a more 'realistic picture' for the true size of the crisis across the UK. 

    Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, Sir David - a former chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - said: 'This terrible virus does target older people and people with underlying conditions.

    'What that means is some of the frailest elderly people we've got in our society are in care homes and therefore those people are at increased risk.'

    He added that HC-One, which operates 330 care homes in Britain, had 2,407 cases of suspected or confirmed coronavirus. 

    Older people are known to be more likely to die if they catch COVID-19 - more than half of the UK's 10,261 deaths recorded by the NHS have been among people over 80. Almost all victims (92 per cent) have been older than 60.

    Sir David said: 'There have been 311 residents who have died as a result of suspected COVID-19. Over the weekend we've lost one member of staff.

    'COVID-19 deaths are representative of just about a third of all deaths we've had over the last three weeks.'

    Britain's known care home death toll is now at least 275, but industry experts warned the true figure is likely to already be in the thousands. 

    Data from Italy, Spain and France shows between 42 and 57 per cent of all coronavirus deaths have been in care homes - combined, those countries have had more than 53,000 fatalities.

    London School of Economics researchers found the most robust evidence was from Ireland, where 54 per cent of fatalities have occurred in homes.

    One expert said the findings 'clearly show the lack of focus on the elderly' and said that Britain's most vulnerable deserve better than to be 'ignored and forgotten'.

    Last week Professor Whitty said that just over nine per cent of care homes had cases of COVID-19.  

    At the Downing Street briefing last night, he revealed the figure had jumped to around 13.5 per cent - statistically a jump of 50 per cent in a week.

    Revealing the scale of Britain's crisis, he added there have been COVID-19 outbreaks in 92 care homes in the last 24 hours. There are 17,000 homes in England.  

    The Daily Mail has been told that the figures are even worse in London, where almost a quarter of the 1,300 residential and nursing homes have been affected.

    In just two care home operating companies - HC-One and MHA - at least 521 deaths have been reported among residents, The Guardian reported.

    The claim is more than double the number of officially recorded fatalities and adds to growing pressure for authorities to be quicker and more accurate in the way they record people who succumb to COVID-19 in homes.

    The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates all medical and care facilities in the UK, has announced it will start recording the deaths itself in a bid to improve transparency.

    Case study two: It's the most soul-destroying thing I have ever experienced

    The owner of a nursing home where nine residents have died from coronavirus has described watching the crisis unfold as the 'most soul-destroying' experience of her life.

    The first virus death at Wren Hall Nursing Home in Nottinghamshire, which specialises in dementia care, was two weeks ago.

    Since then eight more have died, including a 91-year-old man over the weekend, and 16 more are infected.

    Asked how she is, care home owner Anita Astle said: 'Broken, I think'

    Asked how she is, the home's owner Anita Astle said: 'Broken, I think.'

    She added: 'Usually this job is the best job in the world. It's so rewarding.

    'We're having to monitor people very closely. We are observing people deteriorate very rapidly and the awful thing is there's very little we're able to do to stop that.'

    Miss Astle told Channel 4 News she did not think the residents who died would have survived if they had gone into hospital and 'they'd probably have been sent back'.

    She said: 'It's the most soul-destroying thing I've ever experienced.' Care assistant Rebecca Mitchell was asked if she had second thoughts about going in to work at the home. She replied: 'No, not at all. I've got a job to do. I'll come and do it for as long as I'm well enough to. If I get Covid-19, then so be it. If I don't, then I'm lucky.'

    Emma Copley, a training nurse associate at the home, rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, said: 'You think, hang on, that person's end of life and we're all in there with masks, they can't see our face… it's not the way Wren Hall dealt with end of life, but it's the way we have to do it.'

    The CQC said that a lack of testing outside of hospitals meant many cases were being missed, and urged homes to include suspected cases in their reports in future, according to ITV News.  

    A spokesperson for the regulator said: 'From this week, the death notifications we collect from providers will allow them to report whether the death was of a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.' 

    The Labour Party's Shadow Minister for Social Care, Liz Kendall, said it is vital that more is done to protect care home residents and workers, and to offer the public a clear picture of what is happening behind their closed doors.  

    'The increase in Covid-19 deaths in care homes is extremely worrying,' she said. 

    'But the true picture will sadly be even worse because these figures are only up to the week ending April 3.

    'We urgently need these figures on a daily basis to help deal with the emerging crisis in social care and ensure everything possible is being done to protect more than 400,000 elderly and disabled people who live in nursing and residential care homes.

    'The Government has rightly said the NHS will get whatever resources it needs to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    'This must also apply to social care, which needs a much greater priority and focus than it has had so far.'

    Ms Kendall called on the Government to set out how it would improve the situation in today's Downing Street briefing.

    Care home bosses around the country are already angry at how their businesses are being treated by the Government.

    One furious manager accused Public Health England of 'playing Russian roulette' with elderly residents' lives by requiring homes to take back patients who had been hospitalised with COVID-19 symptoms.  

    Rachel Beckett, chair of Wellburn, which has three homes in North East England, said every home was being instructed to re-admit residents from hospital. 

    She said: 'The instruction from Public Health England (PHE) also goes on to say that, 'because of the lack of testing available, the readmissions may or may not have COVID-19'.' 

    She added: 'I'm absolutely sure you'd be hard pressed to find one care home provider in the UK that feels comfortable with this outrageous and reckless request.

    'I have a duty of care to my residents, to their loved ones and my staff.

    'How can I, with good conscience, admit any patient back into any of our homes, when we have no idea if they have COVID-19 or not?'

    Public Health England's Dr Nick Phin said the guidance had been developed to help people safely care for residents returning from hospital.

    He said: 'It details measures to be taken to help minimise any risk of further transmission of COVID-19 to patients and staff within care homes'.

    Case study three: Ban means I may never see mother again

    Julie Ding (pictured, right, as a child with her mother Roberta and late sister Susan) fears she will not be able to be at her dying mother's bedside because she was banned from visiting her nursing home

    Julie Ding fears she will not be able to be at her dying mother's bedside after she was banned from visiting her nursing home.

    The former social worker has not seen 83-year-old Roberta, who has motor-neurone disease, in six weeks since she was first taken to hospital then the care home.

    To keep vulnerable people safe, some facilities have a blanket ban on visitors to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

    Miss Ding, 56, was her mother's full-time carer until her condition rapidly deteriorated, leaving her unable to walk or speak and able to breathe only with the help of a ventilator.

    She has not seen her since she was taken to a nursing home from hospital on March 2, and has only chatted to her on video calls.

    Miss Ding, from West Yorkshire, is desperate for her mother to return home as she fears her condition will worsen inside the home and she is scared she will die alone. She has no family other than her mother after her only sibling, Susan, died aged 49 in 2010.

    'I made a promise to my mum I will always be by her side,' she said. 'I'm allowed in when she's in the last throes of death, the manager will decide.' 

    Another 30 care home deaths were confirmed over the Easter weekend as the virus spread through facilities in Essex, Durham and Glasgow.

    Former pensions minister Baroness Rosalind Altmann, who has long campaigned for dignity for the elderly, said the crisis showed how some of society's most vulnerable were being 'abandoned like lambs to the slaughter'.  

    She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning she was 'really concerned' about what is happening in the care sector.

    Baroness Altmann said: 'We seem to have this artificial distinction between the NHS and what is called social care or elderly care in particular, and that is being overlooked, it seems to me.

    'TWO THIRDS OF HOMES COULD HAVE COVID-19' 

    The chief of one of the UK's largest care home operators has said the scale of the disease's spread in residential facilities has been grossly underestimated.

    Sir David Behan, non-executive chairman of HC-One, which cares for 17,000 people in 328 homes around Britain, said that the company had recorded 2,407 COVID-19 cases across its sites.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that suspected or confirmed coronavirus had been recorded in 232 of the company's 330 homes. 

    And he said that proportion - around two thirds - was a 'realistic picture' of how he expected homes around the country to be affected. 

    Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, Sir David - a former chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - said: 'This terrible virus does target older people and people with underlying conditions.

    'What that means is some of the frailest elderly people we've got in our society are in care homes and therefore those people are at increased risk.' 

    He added: 'COVID-19 deaths are representative of just about a third of all deaths we've had over the last three weeks.'

    'You know the Government has real problems and of course it has got difficult decisions to make.

    'But we must not forget that the mark of a civilised society must reflect how it treats its most vulnerable and oldest citizens.' 

    She added: 'I'm sure that the Government really cares about what's happening and it's an enormous task.

    'We must not forget the most elderly in our population - the average age of people in our care homes is 85.

    'Their lives are also valuable and they need the treatment and the equipment and the care that we would expect for anyone else in society as well.' 

    Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said she does not agree with Baroness Altmann's claims that the care sector is being left behind in tackling coronavirus.

    She said: 'In fact, the PPE is being delivered to over 26,000 care settings across the country including care homes, home care providers and also hospices. 

    'I think it is important that we continue to try and get that PPE out daily, not only to the NHS but to other key users of that.'

    Ms Coffey added that she 'thinks' the Government has delivered about 8million bits of PPE to care homes around the country as well as hospices. 

    Ms Coffey was this morning questioned on ITV's Good Morning Britain over the care homes crisis.

    Host Piers Morgan said: 'It's quite hard to prepare and protect them properly if you have no idea of the scale of what you're dealing with.

    'We've never seen this kind of carnage wreaking havoc on the lives of our healthcare workers and care workers.

    'The least I expect is the Government knows how many of these people are dying, it shouldn't be too much to ask.'

    When pressed on whether she had any idea over the true number of deaths in care homes, she said it was 'about 1,000'. 

    Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, today said care homes were struggling to source and pay for PPE and prices were 'not sustainable'.

    She said the Government had removed VAT on the essential kit for the NHS and urged it to do the same for the social care sector.

    Ms Ahmed said one provider had paid £8,500 for just one week's worth of PPE, adding: 'We've said to the Chancellor 'take the VAT off PPE, these are essential items'.

    'They've taken it off for the NHS but they've not moved it for social care... without our staff we can't deliver the care.'

    Ms Ahmed added: 'If the social care sector fails, if there is provider failure, the problem is going to be much bigger for the Government and I think it's very short-sighted of them not to have focused on social care much earlier.'  

    The crisis is also affecting staff. Some carers have already walked out because they are petrified of 'running the gauntlet' every day without safety gear.

    They fear catching the disease themselves or spreading it to loved ones or those they are supposed to be looking after.  

    It comes amid accusations that care home victims are being 'airbrushed' out of the daily death toll which only includes hospital fatalities.

    It was also claimed that some doctors were not recording coronavirus on death certificates of care residents.

    An anonymous source who works in death registration in the south of England told Channel 4 News that 'in many cases' it was being left off.

    THE 'SCORING SYSTEM' THE NHS USES TO DECIDE WHO RECEIVES CRITICAL CARE

    The NHS uses a controversial 'scoring system' to decide who receives critical care, which means frail over-70s are at the back of the queue.

    The 'Clinical Frailty Scale' (CFS) ranks patients' frailty from one to nine and is designed to prioritise those most likely to recover from the killer virus.

    It has been implemented as hospitals desperately scramble to free up beds and ventilators to fight the COVID-19 crisis.  

    People are deemed 'severely frail' if they are 'completely dependent for personal care'. 

    Doctors may be advised not to admit anyone with a score above seven points, although medics can use their discretion.

    NHS regulator NICE suggests patients who are graded between seven and nine can be offered palliative care, as studies show their odds of survival are slim.

    An NHS website outlining how the scoring system works states that it 'is a reliable predictor of outcomes in the urgent care context'.

    Experts say the scoring system also discriminates against people with learning disabilities who may need round-the-clock care.    

    NICE says the scale should not be used in younger people or those with learning disabilities or autism. 

    Ministers were urged to take action to stop the shortage of PPE and testing, and help shield staff and residents from outbreaks.

    The National Care Association warned that if the care system collapsed there would be a 'horrendous' impact on the already overstretched health service.

    And the association called for the urgent appointment of a 'Cabinet Minister for Care Homes' to tackle the problem. 

    Mr Whitty said the Government is trying to 'extend the amount of testing of people in care homes as the ability to test ramps up over the next few weeks'.

    The lack of protective gear is causing many care workers to fear going to work.

    Nicola Roberts, who runs the Palms Row care homes in Sheffield, said staff absence has been 'phenomenal'. She said 11 residents had died and a nurse is in intensive care with coronavirus.

    She said: 'Staff are too terrified to come to work. You can't blame them. We're asking staff to go to work with limited PPE and put their own families at risk.'

    A care worker employed at a different home, a mother of three, told the Mail: 'It's like a ticking time bomb. Without proper safety equipment or tests for people working here, it's a matter of when, not if there is a coronavirus outbreak.'

    Gavin Edwards, of the Unison union, said: 'The lack of PPE is a massive issue among care workers and accounts for two-thirds of the messages we're getting from them. People are genuinely scared for themselves and the people they live with.'

    Over Easter it emerged that 13 residents died in one home in Essex. It was also announced 13 have died at Stanley Park Care Home in County Durham and five at Almond Court in Glasgow.

    Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said: 'We are losing a whole generation to this virus but it feels like, because they are old, the deaths don't count.'

    Of 1,300 care and nursing homes in London, 290 have had residents go down with coronavirus.

    The exact number in the capital's care homes who have contracted the disease was not clear last night, but it is likely to be 'well into four figures', the Mail was told.

    Care home is transformed for 30 staff members who have left their families at home to sleep in bunk beds and care for residents

    St Brelades and The Cumberland care home, in Herne Bay, Kent, looks after women suffering from dementia. It has been entirely locked down to outside visitors, and all carers and staff have now left behind their homes and families, to live in the care home. Pictured, the temporary bedroom the carers have created in one of the offices

    Staff at the home in Kent have transformed offices into makeshift bedrooms as they stay there to look after the residents 

    Slumber party: Staff members are now living, eating and working together as they give up all their time to care for residents at the home 

    St Brelades and The Cumberland care home, in Herne Bay, Kent, looks after women suffering from dementia. 

    It has been entirely locked down to outside visitors, and all carers and staff have now left behind their homes and families, to live in the care home.

    Many of the existing carers have left their own families to stay in the facility.  

    There are now about 30 carers living in the home looking after 55 residents.

    The management have adapted the home to accommodate both the carers and residents living together, including all the offices, training rooms and meeting rooms to hold new beds and bunk beds. 

    Barbeques, X-Boxes, PlayStations, and Wii consoles have now been ordered to keep staff entertained during their stay.

    Entertainment for the residents is being provided by an entertainer who has volunteered to live permanently in the home. The carers and entertainers play live music and arrange various other activities for the residents, including exercise classes, art and crafts, baking, and activities done via live streaming on TV's.

    Larry Berkowitz, Owner of St Brelades and The Cumberland, told MailOnline: 'We've never faced anything like this before, and we've worked really hard to make sure that our residents and carers are all as safe as possible. 

    'I am so proud of all the carers for their sacrifice, dedication and hard work, and for the way in which they have all come together in really tough circumstances to provide the best possible care for those who are most in need.' 

    Residents at the home are urging members of the public to stay in their homes

    St Brelades and The Cumberland care home, in Herne Bay, Kent, looks after women suffering from dementia

    Care home deaths 'airbrushed' off official records with thousands of cases recorded as Alzheimer's or 'old age', critics warn

    Care home victims of the virus are being 'airbrushed' out of official death tolls despite as many as half of fatalities happening there, it was claimed.

    The number is largely unrecorded because figures released by Public Health England only relate to hospital deaths.

    As the elderly residents are generally only tested if they are admitted to A&E, MPs warned that thousands of fatalities could be 'swept under the carpet'.

    Fifteen out of 20 residents of Oaklands Nursing Home in East Sussex last week developed coronavirus symptoms, with a member of staff in intensive care. However, just three were tested – among them Giuseppe Casciello, 95, who died on March 30. He is pictured here with family

    Whistleblower claims UK's COVID-19 death total could be DOUBLE the official figure

    A whistleblower has claimed the true coronavirus death total could be double the official figure.

    The source, who works in death registration in the south of England, said 'dozens and dozens' of errors are being made on death certificates in care homes and the community.

    They said 'old age, dementia or Alzheimer's' was being used as the 'easy option' by GPs without any reference to the deadly bug.

    They cited a conversation with one doctor who revealed they had put the cause of death on one document as 'Alzheimer's', when 'it was probably Covid'.

    The whistleblower told Channel Four News if care home and community deaths were accurately recorded, it would equal the hospital deaths in their area.

    They added that the country will never know the true number of deaths from the illness.

    The figures are later counted by the Office for National Statistics when listed on death certificates but there is a long delay.

    The most recent statistics – which only go as far as the week ending March 27 – said there had been just 20 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes.

    But Care England estimated there have been nearly 1,000 deaths from the disease in elderly people in sheltered accommodation.

    And yesterday a study suggested that about half of Covid-19 victims on the Continent are from care homes.

    Figures from varying official sources in Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium estimated between 42 per cent and 57 per cent of deaths from the virus have been happening in homes, research by academics based at the London School of Economics found. Covid-19 fatalities are not recorded unless doctors put it on death certificates.

    And last night a whistle-blower told Channel 4 News that this was not happening with those who die in care home in many cases.

    The unnamed worker in death registration in the South of England said if the number were being accurately counted it would be equal to the toll in hospitals in their region.

    But he revealed instead they put down old age dementia or Alzheimer's – with no mention of Covid-19 – because it was an 'easy option' for GPs.

    The whistle-blower claimed he was even told by a family doctor in a phone conversation that they had done this.

    Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: 'The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don't matter.'

    Labour MP Peter Kyle described the system as the 'final insult' to care home residents.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) has pledged to review the official rules

    He said: 'They are already dying alone, separated from the people they love in their final moments.

    'Society would never stand for someone who fell in battle not to be recorded as such, and this generation who has given so much to our country deserve nothing less than the truthful record of how they died.'

    Liz Kendall, Labour's social care spokesman, has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to raise her concerns.

    And she has demanded the Government publish the number of care home fatalities daily alongside deaths in hospitals. She said: 'The delay obscures the scale of the spread of Covid-19 in care homes and the impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

    'It is hugely worrying – how can you tackle a problem when you don't know the scale of it in real time?

    'Families desperately worried about their loved ones need to know. Every death counts. The Government has to act as a matter of urgency.'

    Sarah Owen MP, a member of the Commons health committee, added: 'Under-reporting could have a profound effect on how decision-makers are responding to coronavirus.

    'We already know that care homes and social care workers are struggling to receive the adequate support they need in terms of job security, as well as protective equipment at work.'

    A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'We will always be transparent with the public.

    'The vast majority of serious cases and fatalities of the virus will occur in hospital settings and for this reason this is also where we concentrate most of our testing. This is the best way to get consistent, up to date and reliable daily figures.'

    The elderly in care homes are being abandoned like lambs to the slaughter, says former Pensions Minister ROS ALTMANN

    After Boris Johnson fell ill it became fashionable to herald the incident as proof that coronavirus does not discriminate.

    But we know perfectly well that it does discriminate, by hitting older people with far more lethal force.

    After Boris Johnson fell ill it became fashionable to herald the incident as proof that coronavirus does not discriminate, says former pensions minister Ros Altmann

    Dozens of residents die from coronavirus across the UK

    Yorkshire - 13: 13 residents have died at a care home in Yorkshire  

    Luton - 15: Castleroy Residential home is believed to have had 15 deaths from coronavirus 

    Bristol - undisclosed: Edgemont View Nursing Home has closed to visitors after 'a number of deaths' in recent days

    Dumbarton, 8: Eight patients died at Castle View, in Dumbarton

    Essex, 13: 13 residents are understood to have died at a home in Waltham Abbey 

    Scotland - 32: So far in Scotland, 13 people have died at a care home in Glasgow, eight residents in a home in Dumbarton, nine residents in Tranent and two in an Edinburgh care home. 

    Five elderly residents have also died at Almond Court in Drumchapel, Glasgow.  

    Liverpool, 3:  At the Oak Springs Care Home in Wavertree, three residents died at the weekend, with one of them testing positive for the virus

    Portsmouth, 4: Four elderly residents at Harry Sotnick House have died after showing Covid-19 symptoms and a fifth died without symptoms.

    London, 7: Seven people living at Hawthorn Green Residential and Nursing Home in Stepney died after contracting the virus, the east London home said. 

    Durham, 13: 13 people have died at Stanley Park Care Home in County Durham from Covid-19 symptoms.

    Yet Government policies, combined with our apparent indifference to the plight of our parents' and grandparents' generation, have created a deadly wave which is crashing over our care homes.

    Care England, which represents care providers, estimates almost 1,000 older people have died in care homes since the epidemic started. I use the term 'estimate' intentionally, because that's all it can do.

    For, in an omission that speaks eloquently of a shaming state of mind which devalues the lives of the oldest generations, the Government does not include these deaths in the daily figures it releases.

    But even if the deaths of the very old were given the same standing and dignity as the middle-aged and the young, it would be impossible for Health Secretary Matt Hancock to determine how many elderly people are succumbing to the virus because coronavirus testing is not being routinely carried out in care homes.

    The little we do know, however, is terrifying. In recent weeks this pandemic has mercilessly charged through 2,200 care homes. In just one 24-hour period, there have been 100 new outbreaks in care homes across the country.

    All of which makes it baffling – disgraceful, even – that pleas from managers of care homes for personal protection equipment (PPE) are going unanswered.

    It's hardly surprising that many petrified staff are considering refusing to return to their jobs until they're given adequate safety equipment. They are concerned not just about themselves but also about spreading the disease to others.

    There is much heroism among the staff, particularly those who have moved into care homes to reduce the risk of infection.

    But otherwise there are few redemptive news stories to be found here. Just hidden silent death, with our elderly citizens who raised us and demanded so little in return now slipping away alone and isolated.

    The shameful truth is that many care home residents who fall ill are being refused hospital admission.

    One woman of 90 who lives near me had a carer twice a day. But that carer became unwell and was not replaced.

    As a result, the vulnerable woman was left to fend for herself and nearly died of dehydration after an ambulance service refused to take her to hospital for treatment.

    Care home staff could be 'forced to wear bin bags as PPE' 

    Ceri Roberts, managing director of Cariad Care Homes, in Gwynedd, told  the Daily Post that she attempted to buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from two major suppliers online.

    But she was told they were 'only delivering to care homes in England.' Ms Roberts said that, unless she manages to get hold of more PPE quickly, by the middle of next week the staff at the Bodawen home in Porthmadog and Plasgwyn in Criccieth will have to wear black bin bags instead.

    She said: 'I tried to buy £550 worth of masks, gloves and aprons only to be offered a couple of boxes of gloves and some hairnets for £83.

    'I couldn't believe it that one part of the UK was being prioritised over the rest – are masks and aprons only for care staff in England? I was just dumbfounded to be told that they wouldn't sell to care providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    'These are frightening times and my team are doing everything they can to keep the virus at bay because we know if it does get in it will have disastrous consequences. No matter how good your infection control is, if it gets in it will be catastrophic because of the vulnerability of the people we are looking after.'

    A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said some distributors are prioritising supply to central UK stocks, which 'supports a planned and coordinated response'. The spokesman added: 'The Department of Health and Social Care is working very closely with the devolved administrations in ensuring there is sufficient PPE to meet the clinical need across the health and social care sector.

    'Supply routes have been set up within each nation to provide PPE to frontline services.'

    In all my decades of campaigning for the dignity of the elderly, there has been no clearer snapshot of how they are being abandoned like lambs to the slaughter. 

    They are being left to die because we don't value their lives as highly as the young.

    Of course, the Government keeps out of the debate by refusing to confirm that any such policy exists.

    And certainly some would say that we should discriminate in favour of the young over the very old.

    But that does not mean that the NHS should be favoured over the care sector even before our hospitals have reached full capacity.

    These elderly are not being offered the best chance to recover today in case our health system needs to treat younger people tomorrow.

    There are no winners here, but when hospitals do not take in the elderly they face a horrible death, at home or in care homes, without ventilators or oxygen nor even the palliative care that any civilized society should be able to provide.

    Once again, the elderly are being hung out to dry by this country's failure to eliminate the artificial distinction between 'health' and 'care'.

    A millionaire with cancer would normally be treated by the NHS with state of the art equipment and expensive drugs.

    But an old person with coronavirus or other illnesses may be abandoned in their care home, all the while using their life savings or family home to cover enormous fees.

    We rightly laud the brave NHS workers at the front line of this wretched epidemic. We celebrate our healthcare system not just for what it does, but for what it says about us as a civilized society.

    But when our compassion fails those who need it most and to whom we owe everything, can we really be so sure of our moral superiority?

    Care home resident, 83, dies after GP refused to visit and NHS 'categorically' denied to send an ambulance as she displayed coronavirus symptoms

    A care home resident died after a GP refused to visit and the NHS 'categorically' denied to send an ambulance as she displayed coronavirus symptoms, says her family.

    Annie, 83, passed away on Friday afternoon at a home in Tameside, Greater Manchester, after becoming breathless with a temperature on March 31.

    Carers are said to have repeatedly phoned 111 and a GP, who refused to visit and 'flatly informed' relatives she would not be admitted to hospital or given a ventilator.

    A care home resident passed away on Friday afternoon after a GP refused to visit and the NHS 'categorically' denied to send an ambulance as she displayed coronavirus symptoms, says her family (file photo) 

    After a few days the grandmother was given antibiotics and later an end-of-life package, with a district nurse visiting the home to give painkillers.

    The GP spoke to Annie over FaceTime and is said to have been treating the case as coronavirus, but the 83-year-old was not tested for the infection.

    Annie's son-in-law, Hayden Hewitt, claimed the doctor said she was 'recorded as expected to die' so that the 'case would not to a coroner'.

    Mr Hewitt told MailOnline: 'For old people, my concern for many of the others is if you're showing any symptoms or you're just ill, it's a very short step to palliative care now.

    'A very, very short step. It just seems like too many people are going to be dead and they're all going to be listed as Covid-19, there will be no coroner's report and that will be that.'

    Referring to the doctor, he said: 'The only thing he told me was that she wouldn't get a ventilator if she was taken in.

    'I understand if you don't have Covid-19 going in you might well have it once you're there, but mostly I was just interested why a GP wouldn't go out and make that informed decision of what's the riskiest option here, rather than just assume and say goodbye.'

    Mr Hewitt added: 'My wife is deeply upset. She just doesn't know what's happening. She's angry because it does feel regardless of anything that it's a case of 'there you go, goodbye'. It's very hard to put into words.'

    Carers are said to have repeatedly phoned 111 and a GP, who refused to visit and 'flatly informed' relatives she would not be admitted to hospital or given a ventilator, according to Annie's son-in-law (file photo) 

    The home, which did not wish to be named, corroborated Mr Hewitt's claims and confirmed they spoke to NHS 111 and a GP 'multiple times', but it was decided a hospital admission 'was not suitable'.

    There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at the home.

    A spokesperson for the home said: 'Caring for our residents and supporting our colleagues is at the heart of what we do, and we are doing everything we can to make sure they stay safe and well throughout these challenging times.

    'Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family who have lost a loved one at this exceptionally difficult time, and we are doing what we can to support them.

    'We have a comprehensive coronavirus contingency plan in place, which was created by our Clinical Director and reflects the latest government guidance.

    'We are proud of our Colleagues and their courage in rising to the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak by showing huge dedication and commitment to our Residents. We are providing round-the-clock support for all our teams, and we are also grateful to Relatives for their ongoing support and understanding.'

    MailOnline has contacted the GP surgery, who said they were unable to comment, and NHS England.

    Care home nurse dies after contracting coronavirus

    A care home nurse who died after contracting Covid-19 has been described as a 'wonderful human being' by her colleagues.

    Rahima Bibi Sidhanee, who had worked at Grennell Lodge Nursing Home for over 30 years, was admitted to hospital a week ago and died on Sunday.

    In a tribute the director of Care Unlimited, which operates the privately-owned care home in Sutton, south London, raised concerns about a lack of testing for staff in the social care sector.

    Danny Shamtally said there was an 'urgent need' for testing of care home staff as he remembered Ms Sidhanee as a friend who was dedicated to her profession.

    He said in a statement on Tuesday: 'Our family recollection of her is of a person of extreme kindness, selflessness and impeccable loyalty and integrity.

    'Rahima loved nursing and the people she cared for, their happiness was of great importance to her and she would go above and beyond in her delivery of care.'

    Ms Sidhanee trained at Edgware General Hospital in the 1970s, and was a registered nurse and midwife with nearly 50 years' experience.

    She was also a 'very good cook' who made Caribbean and Indian food for residents at the home - in her own time and at her own expense, according to Mr Shamtally.

    He said that she trained with 'old school values' and would ensure that her residents were 'clean, well-presented and comfortable'.

    'In 30 years of service there has never been any reproach about her care and professionalism,' he said.

    'Always calm and collected, with a subtle sense of humour, she had the ability to diffuse tension.

    'Most importantly, her residents spoke highly of her.

    'There is so much one can say about this wonderful human being.

    'We have lost an exemplary professional, a caring mother and a very good friend taken from us far too early.'

    Mr Shamtally said that although the privately-owned care home appeared to be 'virus free', he said a lack of testing was 'placing both staff and residents at risk'.

    He said: 'Whilst the home Rahima worked for, Grennell Lodge in Sutton, appears without testing to be virus free, we feel strongly that the lack of appropriate testing for staff and residents leaves many care homes like ours are in a position where we do not know if staff are emergent or asymptomatic carriers of the virus, placing both staff and residents at risk.

    'Judging by the increasing numbers of care homes reporting residents and staff dying with the virus, there is an urgent need for adequate testing.'

    Mr Shamtally added that he had voiced concerns about a lack of testing to the NHS Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group and social services.

    'The testing being trailed in our locality is focused on staff who have symptoms and are already isolating,' he said.

    'Requiring them to attend testing centres in remote locations without consideration that many working in the care sector in our region do not drive.

    'It is clearly apparent that the testing is well below what should be expected in order to keep the spread of infection under reasonable control.'

    Care worker 'told to work despite displaying COVID-19 symptoms' is hospitalised with virus

    An anonymous worker has detailed how a manager at a care home in the south west of England 'told carers to come to work despite a cough'.

    She said: 'The manager of the care home... said ''don't think if you've got a cough you're not coming in to work''. The carers work really hard and always turn up for work so for someone to say that to them, of course they are going to come in.

    'And then one of the supervisors got admitted to hospital for three days with coronavirus last week.'

    'She had been working up until then, she could have infected people in the care home and others she was working with. But they had no masks.' 

    Speaking of her own experience with the virus. the carer said: 'I had the cough and couldn't taste anything, I could have drank a glass of vinegar.

    'The first week wasn't too bad, I had a temperature, but the second week hit me like a rock. I couldn't walk upstairs without gasping and it was touch and go whether I would have to go to hospital. But I made it through and i'm fine.

    'The doctor told me to stay at home after the first week even though I felt better, and thank god he did, otherwise I would have gone back to work. We just don't know as there is no testing.

    'Fortunately I had a mask and was wearing it religiously, thank god I was because otherwise I would have infected everybody that i'd gone to care for in their homes and everyone that I work with - the eldest woman that I work with is 105, it would have been life threatening for her. There's no PPE for most care workers, just gloves and aprons.'

    MailOnline has contacted the care home in question for comment.

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