Hertsmere has the highest coronavirus death rate in the whole of the UK, national figures show.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that Hertsmere has a Covid-19 death rate of 159.3 per 100,000 population, which is higher than anywhere else.

This does not mean Hertsmere has recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths.

Death rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, during a particular period of time.

Although the coronavirus peak passed in Hertsmere in mid-April, the borough remains the worst-hit in Hertfordshire, with 168 deaths up to May 15, and continues to rank overall as having the UK’s highest death rate.

Top 7 UK coronavirus death rates (per 100,000 population)

1. Hertsmere (Hertfordshire) - 159.3

2. Harrow (London) - 148.3

3. Brent (London) – 138.2

4. Inverclyde (Scotland) – 135

5. South Lakeland (Cumbria) – 129.1

6. Epping Forest (Essex) – 126.6

7. Middlesbrough (North East) – 125.2

Overall picture in Hertsmere

According to the latest weekly ONS figures, there have been a total of 168 coronavirus deaths of people living in Hertsmere.

This is higher than each of the other nine districts in Hertfordshire, with St Albans recording 110 deaths and Dacorum recording 106 deaths.

Of the 168 deaths in Hertsmere, ONS records 119 taking place in hospital, 39 in a care home, 8 at home, 1 in a hospice, and 1 elsewhere.

Of these 168 deaths, 42 occurred during the week of April 4 and 38 took place the following week.

In total, 213 people living in Hertsmere died between March 28 and April 17, according to the ONS.

More people died in the borough over this three-week period than in the first ten weeks of the year (211).

The situation now in Hertsmere is completely different – in the most recent week of data (May 9-15) ONS reported four coronavirus deaths, down from 12 the previous week.

ONS counts a Covid-19 death as a death if Covid-19 has appeared on the death certificate.

A total of 388 cases of coronavirus have been identified by the government in Hertsmere over the whole pandemic.

Hertsmere includes Borehamwood, Bushey, Potters Bar, Elstree, Radlett, and Shenley.

The total of 168 deaths in Hertsmere is far less than the number of deaths recorded in neighbouring London boroughs – which have far greater populations.

ONS figures report 433 Covid-19 deaths in Barnet, 374 in Harrow, and 365 in Enfield.

Care home outbreaks

Care home outbreaks in Hertsmere have likely contributed to why the borough has experienced the highest death toll in Hertfordshire.

Hertsmere has one of the highest numbers of care home and nursing home beds in the county.

The county council says there are 1,259 beds in the borough, which is the third highest behind North Hertfordshire and East Hertfordshire.

Hertfordshire County Council says that 15 out of Hertsmere’s 17 care and nursing homes have reported at least one person with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 symptoms since March.

As of Wednesday May 27, six of these 17 homes were reporting that they had residents diagnosed with Covid-19 - 13 people in total.

The council says 12 of the 17 homes are reporting deaths related to Covid-19, either suspected or confirmed.

The council says these 12 homes have in total reported 89 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 deaths, with approximately 25 of those 89 dying in hospital.

In total, the ONS has reported 146 deaths, from all causes, inside care homes in Hertsmere between March 7 and May 15, which is the same number as North Hertfordshire.

This figure of 146 does not include care home residents who have died outside of a care home, for example in hospital.

Between December 28 and March 6, so before the pandemic, the ONS has recorded 48 deaths inside Hertsmere care homes. This was the sixth-highest in Hertfordshire.

Although these figures are subject to change, the data shows deaths in care homes in Hertsmere have tripled since the first coronavirus deaths were reported at the beginning of March, compared to the previous ten-week period.

The county council is currently reporting, as of May 27, a total of 502 deaths of care or nursing home residents in Hertfordshire linked to Covid-19.

Why Hertsmere should not be topping these tables and charts

Hertsmere is relatively mid-range in Hertfordshire.

More deaths have consistently been registered in North Hertfordshire, East Hertfordshire, Dacorum, and St Albans during the winter and spring over the last three years than in Hertsmere, according to ONS figures.

Hertsmere is mid-range for population too. More people live in each of North Hertfordshire, East Hertfordshire, Dacorum, St Albans, and Welwyn Hatfield.

What may have caused Hertsmere to have the highest Covid-19 death rate in the UK

Care homes

The figures from Hertfordshire County Council show that almost every care home in Hertsmere has been affected by coronavirus and it is possible several residents in any number of homes have died.

Diverse population

Hertsmere is one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in Hertfordshire.

ONS 2011 census data shows that only Watford has a more diverse population than Hertsmere.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said publicly that people in the UK from ethnic minority backgrounds are "disproportionately" dying with coronavirus.

Older people

Hertsmere also has one of the higher proportions of people over the age of 65 with the age bracket representing 18.4 per cent of the total population, according to mid-2019 figures.

But more populated districts in Hertfordshire do inevitably have a larger elderly population than Hertsmere.


Nationally, coronavirus death rates have been twice as high in more deprived areas of the UK.

Hertsmere is one of the most affluent and most expensive places to live in Hertfordshire but a borough councillor in Borehamwood says he is “not surprised” by the number of deaths reported in his ward, Cowley Hill.

Councillor Jeremy Newmark, who is group leader at Hertsmere Labour, said: “All of the early analysis indicates that the main reason for Hertsmere’s disproportionate mortality rate relates to the high number of deaths in areas of multiple depravation, particularly Borehamwood’s Cowley Hill ward – I have seen evidence the ward is experiencing double the number of deaths as other parts of the borough.

“Unfortunately this is no surprise.

“Cowley Hill Ward contains areas that are in the top ten on the national indices of multiple deprivation. That is why we have consistently called for better investment in this area.

“These figures are chillingly consistent with the ONS data which shows how people in the poorest parts of the country are dying at double the rate of those in richest areas.

“That is exactly what we are seeing here in Hertsmere.”

Responding to Cllr Newmark’s comments, Hertsmere Borough Council leader, Cllr Morris Bright, said: "The council has already agreed and secured funding to look in to the issues that certain parts of the Cowley Hill ward suffer from.

“We will be seeking the views and involvement from a host of agencies including the NHS and Police as to what they feel is happening and what we can all do together to help.”

Proximity to London

Cllr Bright says it is “heart-breaking” to see how Hertsmere has suffered during the pandemic.

He says he has been told there are a host of reasons why his borough has experienced the number of deaths it has, which include an elderly population, that is has one of the largest number of care homes, and that Hertsmere is the second most diverse district in the county.

Cllr Bright has also pointed to how close Hertsmere is to London – he says the borough has suffered similarly to the capital which has had higher rates than most non-city areas.

Cllr Bright added he has been told part of this was associated with the high level of commuter travel from Hertsmere into London for work.

The leader added: “Thankfully the numbers of those showing symptoms of and dying from COVID 19 are now dropping both nationally and locally.

“But we must remain alert and careful.

“It’s another reason why I support Hertfordshire county council’s social distancing measures in Shenley Road, Borehamwood, so that when more shops do reopen, residents and businesses can feel safer and less worried about coming out.”

Have care providers been given the support they need?

Richard Roberts, cabinet member for adult care & heath at the county council, said: “The care providers in Hertfordshire have shown professionalism, compassion and determination to provide the very best care to people during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We recognise the trauma and loss that family members and staff will have experienced and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families of the residents and the staff at this sad time.”

The council has added there has been an ongoing multi-agency approach to supporting care homes.

The council says a Provider Hub was set up on March 12 to a telephone helpline, email support and FAQs, to ensure providers were following government guidelines (including those relating to visitors) and support care providers to access information and support with any issues and concerns such as the supply and use of PPE, staffing, training and infection control.