CQC’s publication of data regarding COVID-19 related deaths in care homes

In June 2020, CQC confirmed that it would publish data regarding COVID-19 related death notifications received from care homes between 10 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. This is in addition to the data CQC already publishes on a weekly basis with ONS.

The data which was published by CQC yesterday on 21 July 2021, shows that over 39,000 care home residents died with the virus between 10 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. The data shows that care homes in the North West of England had the most COVID-19 related deaths in the first wave of the pandemic and care homes in the South East of England had the most COVID-19 related deaths during the second wave of the pandemic.

Providers received an email from CQC a few weeks before the publication of the data. The purpose of the email was to notify providers about CQC’s plans to publish COVID-19 related deaths’ data. The email stated that the, “…data includes all death notifications you have submitted to us during the above time period where COVID-19 was either suspected or confirmed regardless of the place of death.”

In a recent case Ridouts dealt with regarding COVID-19 related death statistics and the information that would be published in relation to a client of ours, CQC responded to our concerns stating that:

“…The information presented is deaths of care home residents involving COVID-19, regardless of where the death occurred, so the data will include deaths of care home residents that occurred in the care home, in a hospital, in an ambulance or any other setting.

For example:

 a resident may have been admitted to hospital with a fractured neck of femur and contracted COVID-19 whilst in hospital, and then subsequently died.

  • A resident may have been discharged from another setting to the care home, with COVID-19, for end of life care and later died with COVID-19, not from COVID-19.”

The Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009

In accordance with Regulation 16 of The Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009, providers must notify CQC, “without delay of the death of a service user…whilst services were being provided in the carrying on of a regulated activity” or, as a consequence of the carrying on of a regulated activity.”

In the context of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes, this means that if a service user contracts COVID-19 in a care home and dies from it (in the care home, in a hospital, in an ambulance or any other setting) providers need to make a Regulation 16 notification to CQC.

However, if a service user is admitted to hospital and tests negative for COVID-19 on admission to hospital and later contracts COVID-19 in hospital and dies from it in hospital, the care home provider is not responsible for notifying CQC. This is because the hospital was carrying on the regulated activity when the service user contracted COVID-19, not the care home.  Providers should be careful about ‘over-notifying’ CQC and only do it when there is a regulatory requirement to do so.

Concerns about the data

All providers recognise the importance of transparency but many care providers have been concerned about CQC’s publication of COVID-19 related deaths at their services. Some of the concerns relate to public perception of the data as the general public will rely on this data when choosing a care home for their relatives.

Insurance companies are likely to rely on this data when analysing risks and deciding whether or not to insure and in relation to setting premiums. We are aware of some insurance companies asking providers to sign a disclaimer to state that they had no COVID-19 related deaths. Banks are also likely to rely on this data when lending to businesses.  

In a press release published by CQC it was acknowledged that, death notifications do not in themselves indicate poor quality care, particularly given the potential influence of variable factors, including rates of local community transmission, size of the care home, and the age and health and care needs of the people living there. Moreover, many notifications relate to the deaths of care home residents which occurred in other care settings.” In relation to our client, CQC said that it would publish an ‘accompanying transparency statement and narrative’ clarifying that death notifications are ‘not dispositive as to where transmission occurred’.

CQC’s data dashboard

CQC’s COVID-19 related deaths’ data dashboard can be accessed at the following link:

https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiOGE1YTZlODItYzA2Ni00MmUxLTkyZjQtYjk3OTg0ZmYwMTIyIiwidCI6ImE1NWRjYWI4LWNlNjYtNDVlYS1hYjNmLTY1YmMyYjA3YjVkMyJ9

It is acknowledged on CQC’s dashboard that, “A small number of care homes have told us that they have made an error in the data they have reported to us… These have been highlighted with an asterisk within the Location name field.” If providers find that the statistics published regarding COVID-19 death notifications at their service are incorrect, they should inform CQC of this so that the data can be contextualised.

There is also nothing to prevent providers from publishing their own commentary on their website regarding COVID-19 related death notifications at their service. They can also share this commentary with relatives of service users, insurance companies, banks and other relevant stakeholders.

Conclusion

If providers need any advice or assistance in relation to the publication of COVID-19 related deaths at their service or with any other issues arising from risks relating to COVID-19 our specialist solicitors can help. Please contact Ridouts Professional Services Ltd using the email address info@ridout-law.com or by calling 0207 317 0340.

 

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