At least one in three Covid deaths in England occurred in care homes, data has revealed, as it emerged that more than 40 people died in one home alone.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published figures detailing the number of death notifications it received from individual homes during the pandemic.
The figures showed that there were 39,017 deaths in England from April 10 last year to March 31 this year.
Around 113,000 people in England are estimated to have died from Covid since the start of the crisis, meaning the total number of deaths in care homes is likely to be far higher – at least one third of all virus deaths – as the CQC data only covers a one-year period.
The data reveal that some care homes lost around 75 per cent of residents to the virus and more than 150 homes suffered at least 20 Covid deaths.
Sector was ‘left out to dry’
Care home managers emphasised that the data does not take into account that at the start of the pandemic the sector was "left out to dry" due to a lack of personal protective equipment and testing and was forced to accept infected patients after they had been discharged from hospital.
Nicola Richards, the director of Palms Row Health Care, who chairs the Sheffield Care Association, said that the CQC data made for "emotional reading".
"It feels like the care sector is being punished by being singled out and blamed in publishing this data after all the sacrifices we’ve made by being on the front line," she said.
"It feels like they’re putting the final nail in the coffin for providers. We did everything we could under such difficult circumstances in the battle against Covid. Staff across the sector have lost their lives to this disease. I had staff in hospital and still have some recovering from long Covid.
"They’ve all demonstrated such courage to care for the most vulnerable people in society and are utterly exhausted."
Coronavirus excess deaths – by location (hospital, care home, private home)
Ms Richards, who said she had lost 28 residents to Covid across three sites in the pandemic, added: "We were trying to keep the NHS safe. We had a shortage of PPE [personal protective equipment], a lack of testing, were taking in Covid-positive patients into care homes – all at a time when we didn’t know anything about the virus. It just feels as though we have been targeted again.
"But we’ve been doing a fantastic job in such trying circumstances – and it’s still really challenging."
Transparency in sharing data
The CQC said that it was publishing the data in a bid to be transparent following earlier requests to share it.
However, according to a leading care provider the watchdog was "reluctant" to publish the figures and only did so after receiving Freedom of Information requests.
The CQC said that if it had released the data earlier in the pandemic it could have had a "serious impact on continuity of care", but such risks had now lessened.
The data includes care home residents who died in any setting, not just their care home, including those who contracted Covid in hospital after being admitted for a separate reason.
The homes with the highest numbers of deaths were Bedford Care Home in Wigan, which notified the regulator of 44 deaths, 24 per cent of its capacity, during the period. Calway House in Somerset reported 41 deaths, equating to almost half of its 92 beds.
However, when deaths are calculated in relation to the percentage of total beds, if they were at full occupancy at the time, the figures suggest some homes lost 75 per cent of their residents to Covid.
Bennfield House, in Doncaster, saw 21 deaths during the period and has 27 beds. Mountdale Nursing Home, in Southend-on-Sea, saw a similar rate with 18 deaths out of 24 beds.
Care home deaths search tool
David Crabtree, who manages two care homes in Bingley, Yorkshire, said the CQC figures "bring back memories of those tragic deaths", adding: "The social care sector was left out to dry.
"Those figures are very difficult to look at. There was no PPE, no testing, and care homes were forced to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals."
Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, called for "consideration and respect" to be shown to residents, families and staff.
Deaths need to be ‘seen in context’
She said: "We have a duty to be transparent and to act in the public interest, and we made a commitment to publish data at this level but only once we felt able to do so as accurately and safely as possible given the complexity and sensitivity of the data.
"In doing so, we aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of the impact of Covid-19 on care homes, the people living in them and their families.
"It is important to be clear, however, that although this data relates to deaths of people who were care home residents, many of them did not die in or contract Covid-19 in a care home."
The Health Foundation said the data showed that the Government’s claim of placing "a protective ring" around care homes "was not grounded in reality".
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Prof Martin Green, the CEO of Care England, said: "Every death is a tragedy and it would be highly disrespectful if lessons were not learned at every level. Similarly, every death needs to be seen in context.
"We do not believe that this data is a reflection of quality, and I would like to pay tribute to all the frontline staff who have done a heroic job. It must not be forgotten that many of them lost their lives too."
The data also showed that 18,329 of the deaths happened between April 10 and June 30 last year, during the first Covid wave of the pandemic.
From Jan 1 to March 31 this year, a period including the height of the second wave when deaths and cases were highest in wider society, there were 13,343 deaths.