Care homes report hundreds of coronavirus-linked deaths and thousands of cases

Care providers are reporting hundreds of coronavirus-linked deaths and several thousand cases in up to three quarters of their homes, suggesting the virus has spread further than the Government’s estimate.

Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester Healthcare, said cases of confirmed or suspected coronavirus in care homes are “far more widespread than has previously been acknowledged”.

The company is caring for 663 residents with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in 118 care homes – half of its 236 homes.

But Mr Calveley (pictured) said he was aware of “other care providers that are at 75%”, adding that “testing and the availability of PPE are absolutely vital”.

The provider has had 196 resident deaths in 75 of its homes – 1.5% of all residents and around a third of its total number of homes.

Of these, 130 died in the care homes, while 66 died in hospitals.

HC-One, the UK’s largest operator with 328 care homes, said more than two-thirds of its premises had confirmed or suspected cases.

It reported 349 deaths and 2,644 cases linked to Covid-19 in 232 of its homes, as of 7pm on April 15.

In total, care providers have reported more than 1,000 deaths of care home residents.

It is not clear what proportion died in hospital and how many remained in homes.

The numbers will add pressure on the Government to act on calls to provide daily updates of deaths in care homes alongside figures of hospital deaths.

Currently, the only publicly available data on deaths outside hospitals is from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is published at a lag of several weeks because it relies on death certificates which must be certified, registered and processed.

Earlier on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 15% of care homes are dealing with two or more cases of coronavirus.

He added: “What I do know is that is a robust figure that we have high confidence in.”

Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation, said: “If we are to understand and beat this virus we need to understand how and where it is spreading, and for the front line to be protected.

“That is why the number of deaths in care homes should be released daily in the same way as they are for hospital deaths and why the workforce must be given better access to PPE.”

Jeremy Richardson, chief executive of Four Seasons Healthcare Group, which has 191 homes, said it was difficult to give a precise figure due to the lack of testing.

He said: “However, we estimate that around 60% of our homes have suspected Covid-19 cases, which is consistent with the figures that have been published by colleagues from other firms within the industry.

“As we have stated previously, we believe that the latest Government estimate, that 15% of care homes are reporting Covid-19 symptoms, materially understates the true position.”

The group said around 180 residents with Covid-19 symptoms have died, and between 600 and 700 residents are currently showing symptoms.

Methodist Homes (MHA) has had 251 deaths, including at least two staff, across 50% of its 222 homes and schemes.

But only 57 of these were tested and confirmed as Covid-19, it said.

Care UK, which operates more than 110 care homes and day clubs across the UK, said 85 of its residents with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 have died.

It is currently caring for 529 residents with symptoms “that may (or may not) indicate coronavirus”.

A spokeswoman said: “Sixty-eight per cent of our homes are caring for at least one resident who has symptoms of coronavirus.

“We are extremely grateful to our teams who throughout these challenging times are continuing to show incredible dedication and commitment to supporting residents and each other.

“The teams have access to all the appropriate PPE which they have been using meticulously since the first case.”

Another care provider, responsible for 15 homes in Scotland, warned that a “tsunami wave” of coronavirus cases is facing the sector.

Robert Kilgour, who owns Renaissance Care, told BBC Breakfast that 17 residents in four care homes had now died.

He said: “It is a huge task and the care home sector are facing a tsunami at the moment, a tsunami wave.”

It comes as Plaid Cymru said deaths in adult care homes in Wales in the first two weeks of April have more than doubled compared to the same period last year.

According to Care Inspectorate Wales a total of 486 deaths were recorded between April 1 and 14. The corresponding figure for 2019 was 220.

Plaid leader Adam Price said there must be “significant under reporting” of Covid-19 deaths in Wales if the increase was a result of the virus.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are working hard to rapidly scale up testing and PPE deliveries, with everyone going into a care home from hospital now being tested with immediate effect.

“Already, over 4,000 care workers have been referred to testing, and over 10,000 care residents have been tested. On top of this, we are providing guidance to help minimise the spread of infection within care settings, including advice on safe discharge from the NHS, and when isolation is recommended.”

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