Place of death during the COVID-19 pandemic

30th September 2021

Understanding patterns of mortality and place of death during the COVID-19 pandemic is important to help provide appropriate services and resources.

Researchers based at the Cicely Saunders Institute,King’s College London and the universities of Hull, Edinburgh and Cambridge have analysed patterns of mortality including place of death in the United Kingdom (UK) (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) during the COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021.

During this period 798,643 deaths were registered in the UK, of which 147,282 were COVID-19 deaths and 17,672 were additional non-COVID-19 deaths.

While numbers of people who died in care homes and hospitals increased above expected only during the pandemic waves, the numbers of people who died at home remained above expected both during and between the pandemic waves, with an overall increase of 41%.

The researchers concluded that where people died changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an increase in deaths at home during and between pandemic waves. This has implications for planning and organisation of palliative care and community services. The extent to which these changes will persist longer term remains unclear. Further research could investigate whether this is reflected in other countries with high COVID-19 mortality.

O’Donnell SB, Bone AE, Finucane AM, McAleese J, Higginson IJ, Barclay S, Sleeman KE, Murtagh FE. Changes in mortality patterns and place of death during the COVID-19 pandemic: A descriptive analysis of mortality data across four nations. Palliat Med. 2021 Aug 23:2692163211040981. doi: 10.1177/02692163211040981. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34425717

See related:

Cicely Saunders International Action Plan for Palliative Care

Deaths at Home during the Pandemic: Preference or Pressure?