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Essex County Council has been called on to carry out a “thorough” investigation after figures show the level of deaths in care homes in Epping Forest is among the highest in the country.
The death rate was running about three times higher than even the second most hard hit area of Essex during the height of the epidemic – between week ending April 10 and April 24.
During that time COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificates of 58 people who died in care homes in the district.
It means that in Epping Forest, with an estimated total population of 132,000, 43 people per 100,000 of the total population died were dying in care homes, with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Just 11 other districts in the country saw higher death rates.
During that same period the second most affected district of Southend saw 20 deaths.
Cllr Stephen Murray, an independent councillor at Epping Forest District Council representing Loughton Roding, said: “This confirms what I have heard informally. What we now need to do is make sure the county council carries out a complete and through investigation to explain this very high number.
“I will be getting in touch with county councillors to make sure they are pursuing this matter.
“This is a concerning trend and it needs investigating and it needs answers.”
Epping Forest District Council, which has 26 care homes, was even more badly hit than the London districts of Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest in the same period.
This is despite the fact those three boroughs have significantly more care homes, according to carehome.co.uk.
Redbridge is listed as having the most care homes, with 78, but had 37 deaths in the same mid April period.
There are 63 care homes in Havering, which saw 40 deaths in the period, and there are 52 listed in Waltham Forest which had 21 deaths.
Altogether to June 12 there were 76 deaths in Epping Forest, 68 in Redbridge and 48 in Waltham Forest.
Cllr Murray said: “They must have more people living in care homes in these three London boroughs than we have but our number is significantly higher.
“On the basis of these figures and in terms of care homes something has gone wrong. There are fewer care homes but more deaths.
“It doesn’t look like it’s due to the proximity to London – we are worse than those three London boroughs.”
Elsewhere in Essex up to June 12 there were 49 deaths involving Covid-19 in care homes in Southend, 48 in Basildon and 44 in Chelmsford.
There were 25 in Thurrock, 24 in Brentwood.then 17 in Rochford, 16 in Castle Point and six in Maldon.
Cllr Murray added: “These figures speak for themselves and there needs to be a clear investigation and explanation about what has happened in Epping Forest.”
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “There is still a great deal of research and analysis to be done to understand the full range of factors which could have influenced mortality rates, and until this is completed we won’t have a full understanding of how and why variances occur.”