As many as 7,500 people are feared to have died after contracting coronavirus in care homes, according to a leading industry body.
Care England, which represents independent care firms, said it had collected data which suggested fatalities are far higher than those released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – who recorded 217 care home deaths from the virus up until April 3.
Chief executive Prof Martin Green told the Telegraph: “If we look at some of the death rates since April 1 and compare them with previous years’ rates, we estimate a figure of about 7,500 people may have died as a result of Covid-19.”
But he added that “without testing, it was very difficult to give an absolute figure” on care home deaths.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised data on residents who die with the illness will be available “very shortly”.
The pledge comes after experts called for care home deaths to be included in the daily tally amid fears they are going “under the radar”.
They currently are not listed every day and there have been lags in reported figures for several weeks because the process relies on death certificates, which must be registered and processed.
More rapid data
Earlier this week, the head of Public Health England, Professor Yvonne Doyle, said agencies were working towards producing “much more rapid data, preferably on a daily basis”.
Public Health England said there were 3,084 care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks in England, as of April 15.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) began collecting data on deaths linked to Covid-19 which occurred in both hospitals and care homes on Thursday, Mr Hancock said.
He told the Health and Social Care Committee on Friday: “I’m concerned about this as well; I asked CQC to make sure that we record the data in care homes specifically, of those who are residents of care homes, whether they die in hospital or in the care home, and they started collecting that data yesterday and it will be published very shortly.”
Mr Hancock did not specify precisely when, or how often, this data will be published.
A Government spokesman said “every death from this virus is a tragedy”, and said people were “working around the clock to give the social care sector the equipment and support they need”.
The Department of Health statement added: “As a Government, we have a duty to report verified information.
“It is important that we have the best possible reliable data to know how many deaths there are, wherever they occur.
“In an important step forward, ONS are now providing a breakdown of deaths by place of occurrence.
“We are currently working with CQC and other organisations to understand how to best to provide up to date information about deaths in care homes and elsewhere.”