The scandal of the UK’s dying alone victims

In the past three months thousands of people across Britain have been quietly buried with their deaths attributed to unexplained causes

More than three months into the UK’s coronavirus crisis the hidden facts are slowly emerging, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the government.    

Around three weeks into the lockdown the first alarm bells began ringing about the hidden epidemic in the UK’s care home network.

Barely a weekly later the true scale of the carnage in care homes started to emerge with thousands of elderly residents feared dead.

What made these figures particularly upsetting was the fact that the old and vulnerable were not tested for coronavirus, meaning their deaths were comfortably hidden from view. 

Even at that late stage it was evident that the true scale of the carnage in the UK care home network would eventually run into tens of thousands of deaths in view of the sheer scale of the sector.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), as of 2019 there were 17,000 nursing and residential care homes in England alone, housing 400,000 people, with one in seven residents aged 85 or over.  

And now according to a report on the Guardian (June 07), there is a hidden toll running into the thousands of people dying in their homes with their bodies lying undiscovered for up to two weeks.

“People have lain undiscovered during the pandemic for seven to 14 days”, Dr Mike Osborn, a senior pathologist in London and the chair of the death investigation committee at the Royal College of Pathologists, told the Guardian.

“I’ve seen plenty of such cases like this, where bodies are decomposed, in the Covid outbreak and also done postmortems in ‘query Covid’ cases [where the disease was suspected]”, Dr Osborn added.

Meanwhile, Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, told the Guardian:  “We always feared that a number of older people would be found dead alone at home, either victims of the virus or of something else, and it is extremely sad to find that this is indeed the case”.

The challenge now for the NHS, the charity sector and indeed the government is to find out just how many people have died alone in their homes of COVID-19.

It is only once the exact figure has been established that the UK can begin to take full stock of this particular dimension of the coronavirus crisis. The political ramifications are likely to be significant.   

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