Ann McGauran 11 May 2020

Covid-19 death rates significantly higher for social care workers

Covid-19 death rates significantly higher for social care workers image

Men and women working in social care both have significantly raised rates of death involving COVID-19, according to new analysis from the Office for National Statistics  (ONS).

The death rate for males working in social care was 23.4 per 100,000 (45 deaths) and 9.6 per 100,000 for females (86 deaths).

Healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, were not found to have higher rates of death involving COVID-19 when compared with the rate among those whose death involved COVID-19 when compared with the rate among those of the same age and sex in the general population.

Men working in the lowest skilled occupations had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 males (225 deaths). Among men, a number of other occupations were found to have raised rates of death involving COVID-19, including taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4 deaths per 100,000), bus and coach drivers (26.4 deaths per 100,000) and chefs (35.9 deaths).

The deaths related to COVID-19 by occupation for England and Wales for deaths registered up to and including April 20, 2020.

The ONS also looked at which occupations have the highest potential to exposure to COVID-19. It found a ‘clear correlation’ between exposure to disease and physical proximity to people across all occupations.

Three quarters of workers in occupations requiring the most frequent contact with people, and exposure to disease, are women, said the ONS.  Workers age 55 and over are over-represented as care escorts, ambulance staff (excluding paramedics), and as houseparents and residential wardens.

Six out of 16 of the occupations with very high potential exposure have median pay lower than the UK average of  £13.21 an hour, the ONS added.

Ben Humberstone, deputy director for health analysis and life events at the ONS, said more work would be needed to establish why the rates of COVID-19 deaths are significantly higher in men and women working in social care.

 ‘Even though our analysis suggests that social care occupations have a lower exposure to disease than healthcare workers, both men and women working in social care had significantly raised rates of COVID-19 deaths.

‘There are many different reasons why this could be the case and further work will be needed to look at this.’

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘These shocking statistics are another tragic reminder about the essential need for our vital social care workers to be fully protected and equipped to look after themselves, as well as our most elderly and vulnerable.

‘The Government’s online PPE ordering system needs to be fully operational as soon as possible, so that councils and care providers can directly request that critical protective equipment gets to the frontline where it is desperately needed.'

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Councils and their partners could do even more to contain the spread of COVID-19 if properly funded to undertake a robust localised system of testing, tracking and tracing, argues Professor Donna Hall.
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