The impact of COVID-19 on those in care settings – care home residents and recipients of domiciliary care – has received significant media attention. There is high demand for trustworthy, quality data and statistics to understand the large number of deaths in the care sector during the period of the pandemic.

Statistics on the care sector – including care home outbreaks, number of suspected COVID-19 cases in care homes, and registered deaths in care homes – are currently released through a variety of different reports including daily and weekly surveillance reports and within weekly registered death releases (see footnote). These statistics start to provide a picture of the impacts on those receiving care and help decision-makers to understand and manage COVID-19 within care settings. However, further analyses are needed to provide context and facilitate a better understanding of key areas of concern.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) recognises producers have been making improvements to reporting in this area. For example:

These new data and the efforts of the producer teams are welcomed, and we recognise that producers are seeking to develop statistics provision in this area. Gaining a better understanding of impacts may take some time, as fuller and more complete data becomes available, and will involve efforts from both official statistics producers and the wider research community, working together where there are beneficial collaborative opportunities. Producers should coordinate their efforts and work together to play a key role in providing data and statistics to meet user needs.

To further improve these statistics, OSR recommends that producers continue to work together to present a coherent picture of the impact on those in care settings across the UK during the pandemic. Producers need to provide users with data to develop a better understanding of the large number of deaths and the progression of COVID-19 in the care sector, going further in their analyses and combining the stories these datasets are telling us. This will help to understand how to manage outbreaks and reduce the impact of COVID-19. In particular we consider producers should:

  • Explain the wider context of COVID-19 and the large number of deaths for those in care settings. There needs to be greater understanding of the number of deaths in care settings, considering the increase in overall deaths as well as those recorded as involving COVID-19. In order to be able to unpick some of the reasons which may underlie the trends in data, there is a need for information to contextualise the data and statistics on deaths in the sector as well as to support management of COVID-19. For example, information on COVID-19 testing for those in care settings and patterns and practices in relation to hospital discharges and admissions of care home residents during the stages of the pandemic.
  • Understand and assess the impact of any changes in the circumstances and context of data sources, and any implications for use should be clearly explained. Within the varied landscape of statistics and data on those in care settings, producers should make it clear to users the definitions within their outputs – for example deaths involving COVID-19, deaths due to COVID-19, or deaths of those with a positive test result. Producers should also work closely with relevant parties to understand any differences in the processing or recording of datawhich may impact on the accuracy of statistics on deaths in the care sector.
  • Provide or enable regional comparisons where possible, providing guidance and contextual information to support the interpretation of the statistics. Producers should also enable UK comparisons where possible, providing guidance on whether the data from different countries of the UK can be compared in order to support users’ understanding and interpretation of the statistics. The similarities and differences between the country-level data should be clearly explained particularly any differences in care provision, differences in the characteristics of the population of those receiving care, and data collection methods that could affect the ability to make comparisons.

OSR will continue to monitor the data on the impact of COVID-19 on those in care settings and will work with the producer teams to support them with the recommendations outlined in this statement.

Footnote – list of official data on COVID-19 in the care sector

Public Health England – Weekly COVID-19 surveillance report – Data from a variety of different sources: community, primary care, secondary care, virology, mortality surveillance and sero-prevalence surveillance data.

Public Health England – COVID-19: number of outbreaks in care homes (management information) – Weekly number and percentage of care homes reporting a suspected or confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 to PHE by local authorities, regions and PHE centres.

Office for National Statistics – Number of deaths in care homes notified to the Care Quality Commission, England – Provisional counts of deaths in care homes caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) by local authority.

Office for National Statistics – Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales – Provisional counts of the number of deaths registered in England and Wales, including deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19), by age, sex and region, in the latest weeks for which data are available.

Welsh Government –  Notifications of deaths of residents related to COVID-19 in adult care homes – Notifications to Care Inspectorate Wales of deaths of residents related to COVID-19 in adult care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency – Weekly death registrations in Northern Ireland – Provisional counts of the number of deaths registered in Northern Ireland, including deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, by date of occurrence, age, sex, local government district, place of death and place of residence.

Department of Health Northern Ireland – COVID-19 Dashboard – Daily data on testing, cases, deaths (where there was a positive COVID-19 test) by setting, local government district, gender, age group and date; admissions by suspected and confirmed COVID-19, hospital, Health and Social Care Trust, age group and date; ICU and hospital bed occupancy by confirmed/suspected COVID-19 and date; suspected, confirmed and closed care home outbreaks by date.

Public Health Agency – Monthly Surveillance Bulletin – Data from Health Protection surveillance and notification systems (in Northern Ireland) on: laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases; notifications of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 care home outbreaks for NI and by Health and Social Care Trust, week and cumulative percentage; primary care surveillance; critical care admissions with confirmed COVID-19; mortality (deaths (links to NISRA) and excess deaths) surveillance; and COVID-19 testing, including the proportion positive.

Scottish Government – Coronavirus (COVID-19): daily data for Scotland – Daily data on testing and suspected and confirmed cases.

Scottish Government – Coronavirus (COVID-19): trends in daily data – Past data and trend charts for the daily updates on COVID-19 in Scotland.

Scottish Government – Coronavirus (COVID-19): adult care homes – additional data – Weekly data on suspected cases of COVID-19 in adult care homes in Scotland.

National Records Scotland – Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland – Provisional statistics on the number of deaths associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) and the total number of deaths registered in Scotland.