Joint statement from DHSC and CQC on yesterday's ONS figures

Published: 22 April 2020 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

In response to yesterday’s figures on COVID-19 deaths from the Office of National Statistics, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said:

"Our thoughts are with everyone who has lost a loved one – and with the care workers who are working tirelessly to provide care and support during the pandemic.

"Together, we are working closely with ONS to provide a more detailed and timely picture of the impact of COVID-19 on adult social care, using the data on deaths of people with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 that CQC collects from providers.

"Providers have always been able to report cause of death to CQC via death notifications, but issues with the completeness and consistency of this data meant that the number of COVID-19 deaths being reported did not match what CQC was hearing anecdotally from providers. In response, CQC amended its data collection form to make it easier to record and collate this data, and communicated with providers to make it clear that they should be notifying CQC of both COVID-19 and suspected COVID-19 deaths. This improved data collection began on 10 April.

"The ONS data published yesterday covers the period until 10 April. CQC's current preliminary analysis is up to 15 April; it is anticipated that the number of deaths in care homes relating to COVID-19 reported by providers between 11 April and 15 April could be double the number of care home deaths reported yesterday.

"In common with the ONS, CQC's preliminary analysis also indicates there may be a significant rise in non-COVID-19 deaths. This is of particular concern and we will be exploring the factors that may be driving this with local authorities, adult social care trade associations, PHE, NHSE – to ensure timely action is taken to safeguard people. This work will also inform the ONS’ longer-term research project on non-COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.

"Accurate recording of deaths is important to understand the impact of the virus – but what will be key to reducing infection and saving lives is access to testing. CQC have booked testing appointments for 12,500 care staff so far, and are supporting DHSC in their working with PHE to urgently support the testing of care home residents.

"We are committed to using every avenue we can to provide the crucial support the sector needs at this time."


  • This is as a result of the differences in CQC's and ONS's respective reporting routes; the ONS have noted that their figures released yesterday are likely to be an understatement, given that many death registration offices were closed on 10 April, Good Friday.
  • ONS statistics remain the most reliable data available on deaths in care homes as they are based on completion of death certificates. However, because of the time taken for deaths to be certified and registered, ONS weekly figures are usually published approximately 11 days in arrears. Some deaths can take much longer to be registered, for example because of coroner’s inquest, so the figures are still not comprehensive at that point.
  • CQC's data is based on notifications directly from providers, which take about four days on average to collect and verify and will be used to support the ONS’ weekly data analysis from 28 April. This will also give a regional view of which areas are being most impacted and may need additional support from regional and national providers as a result.
  • This data is only indicative at this stage because the newly collected data is being validated with ONS. No further analysis will be available until 28 April.