Covid-induced rise in deaths at home in Wigan

More people have died at home in Wigan during the pandemic than in the years before it.
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End of life charity Marie Curie said many people avoided hospitals during the crisis in order to protect the NHS, or feared catching Covid.

Office for National Statistics figures show there were 1,531 deaths at homes in Wigan between the start of 2020 and August 20 this year. Of those, 993 occurred last year – 259 more than the annual average of 734 recorded between 2015 and 2019.

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And so far in 2021 there have been 538 deaths at private homes compared to a 475 average in pre-pandemic years. Nationally, there were around 99,000 deaths at home in the first 33 weeks of 2021 – 23 per cent more than the five-year average.

But hospitals saw a three per cent fall, and care homes a five per cent fall.

The Nuffield Trust said the pandemic has seen a “sustained rise” in the number of people dying at home compared to the five-year average – though the reasons why are not clear.

The think tank’s research deputy director Dr Sarah Scobie said: “Patient choice could be one factor, with more people choosing to die at home with family rather than in hospitals or care homes due to Covid-19 visiting restrictions. However, there is a fear that some may be putting off seeking urgent medical help.

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“While it has been an ambition of health and care services to give more people the choice of dying at home, beyond the pandemic, it has to be accompanied by ensuring families and patients will be able to access the right end-of-life support.”

Around three per cent of the deaths at Wigan private homes had any mention of Covid-19 on the death certificate: the same as the national figure.

Marie Curie policy director Sam Royston said: “A higher proportion of deaths last year happened at home as people responded to the government advice which was to protect the NHS by staying at home to save lives. Many people nearing the end of their lives or living with a terminal illness were fearful of going into hospital and potentially catching the virus, not being able to see their loved ones, and sadly the possibility of dying alone.”

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