Published: 11:46, 22 July 2021
| Updated: 15:52, 22 July 2021
More than 1,400 deaths in Kent care homes have been linked to coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak.
New data has been released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showing death notifications involving Covid-19 received from individual care homes between April 10, 2020 and March 31.
Nadra Ahmed is chair of the National Care Association
The total number of deaths recorded in Kent is 1,343, and a further 148 deaths in Medway. This is a total of 1,491.
The two homes which reported the highest number of deaths are Hawkinge House, in Hawkinge near Folkestone, and Hawkhurst House, in Cranbrook, which both recorded 34 Covid-19-related deaths.
At its last inspection by the CQC in February 2021, it was noted that Hawkhurst House provides personal and nursing care for up to 85 people. Hawkinge House provides care for up to 146 people.
Poplars Care Home, also in Maidstone, recorded 24 deaths, and Hazeldene House, at Pembury, recorded 23 deaths.
The CQC says the impact of the pandemic on people who draw on and work in adult social care services has been "devastating", adding: "Despite the best efforts of staff, Covid-19 has contributed to a significant increase in the number of deaths in nursing and residential care settings."
The watchdog said it is "important to note" that death notifications do not in themselves "indicate poor quality care", but consideration has to be given to potential influence of variable factors, including rates of local community transmission, size of the care home, and the age and health and care needs of the people living there.
Moreover, many notifications relate to the deaths of care home residents which occurred in other care settings.
For example, a resident may have been admitted from a care home to hospital with a fracture, contracted Covid-19 while in hospital, and subsequently died without returning to the care home.
The inclusion of a death in the published figures as being involved with Covid-19 is based on the statement of the care home provider, which may or may not correspond to a medical diagnosis or test result or be reflected in the death certification.
'Every number represents a life lost - and families, friends and those who cared for them who are having to face the sadness and consequences of their death...'
Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector for adult social care, said: "In considering this data it is important to remember that every number represents a life lost - and families, friends and those who cared for them who are having to face the sadness and consequences of their death.
"We are grateful for the time that families who lost their loved ones during the pandemic have spent meeting with us and the personal experiences they have shared.
"These discussions have helped us shape our thinking around the highly sensitive issue of publishing information on the numbers of death notifications involving Covid-19 received from individual care homes.
"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 were 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.
"As we publish this data, we ask for consideration and respect to be shown to people living in care homes, to families who have been affected, and to the staff who have done everything they could, in incredibly difficult circumstances, to look after those in their care."
Earlier this year, former Health Secreetary Matt Hancock came under sustained pressure from the social care industry over the decision to discharge people from hospital into care homes at the start of the pandemic without a coronavirus test.
At the time he said it was not possible to test everyone being sent from hospitals into care homes when coronavirus emerged because the capacity was not available.
He also said there were fears a test could "return a false negative and therefore give false assurance that that person did not have the disease".
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said today's figures will bring back harrowing memories for those who lost a loved one or worked in social care.
She said those in care were left behind in terms of priorities, with the focus put on protecting colleagues in the NHS.
She said: "It is just very stark and behind each of those figures is a life lost, and potentially unnecessarily lost because of where we were at that time.
"I thought about all those families who will be looking at those figures who lost loved ones, all the staff looking at the figures and they will be reliving that moment in time when things were chaotic to say the least. Because the sector just had no support from anywhere tangible to tackle it."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "Every death from coronavirus is a tragedy and our deepest sympathies are with everyone who has lost loved ones.
"Throughout the pandemic we have done all we can to protect vulnerable people in adult social care. We have provided billions of pounds to support the sector including on infection and prevention control measures, free PPE, priority vaccinations and additional testing. As a result, 93% of residents and over 75% of eligible staff in care home settings have had two vaccine doses.
“As the data shows, the number of care home resident deaths as a percentage of all COVID-19 deaths in England is comparable with or lower than a number of European countries."
The map showing the number of Covid-linked deaths can be viewed here.