NEW areas have emerged as hotspots for Covid-19 care home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis by the Hampshire Chronicle.

This suggests that while the total loss of life was greatest in Hampshire, the proportion of deaths per 100 care home beds was higher in Portsmouth and Southampton.

A relatively simple explanation for the difference in the total number of deaths might be the size of the care home population within each local authority area, say council chiefs.

New analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Care Quality Commission (CQC) figures revealed an average 2.47 deaths per 100 care home beds in the South East region.

In Hampshire, from the week ending April 17 to May 8, there were 353 deaths in care homes where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate out of a total bed capacity of 13,876 beds. This equates to 2.5 deaths per 100 beds or 2.5 per cent.

In Southampton and Portsmouth city council areas, the rate was 3.6 and 3.5 respectively. Meanwhile the Isle of Wight suffered less than one (0.8) coronavirus-related fatality per 100 care home beds.

Hampshire County Council had more Covid-19 deaths per 100 care home beds than Kent and West Sussex but fewer than Surrey.

The CQC has pointed out not all beds registered by care home providers are occupied, so this analysis is likely to be an under-estimate.

Government and local authorities are under growing pressure to do more to keep the vulnerable in care homes safe – and prevent hundreds more deaths. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to test every care home resident and staff member in England for coronavirus by early June.

A survey of 200 care providers by the National Care Association (NCA) has found three-quarters were concerned about their companies viability with two-thirds claiming extra Government funding given to local authorities was not passed on.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the NCA, said: “Providers have been on the front line since early March and faced challenge after challenge with availability of PPE, testing, staff isolation and infected hospital discharges.

“Providers have worked tirelessly to keep their residents and staff as safe as they could despite the barriers put before them with the requisitioning of PPE for the NHS and lack of testing.

“Government has been reactive and guidelines drawn up confusing and often unhelpful. The majority of local authorities have failed to support the providers in the early stages of the pandemic and funds of £3.2 billion released have not always reached our frontline in any meaningful way.”

In a statement, Hampshire County Council said it had “moved quickly” to distribute its £18.4m share of a new adult social care infection control fund to support independent care providers with nearly 90 per cent set to arrive last Friday (May 29) – two weeks after the scheme was announced.

Of this, about three-quarters will be allocated based on the number of beds in the homes, with a further distribution to those homes most significantly affected by the virus, primarily smaller, family-run businesses.

This extra government funding follows a temporary 10 per cent increase in fees paid to commercial providers because of key pressures faced by the market. The county council has spent £4.2m Covid-19 resilience funding on private care homes.

Cllr Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult social care and health, said: “We have been in regular communication with the county’s care homes throughout the pandemic and have worked hard to provide as much support as possible, but there is no doubt the challenges wrought by responding to the virus, have stretched even the most resilient care providers.

“We therefore welcome this additional financial support from the government, but this does not mask the ever more pressing need for a sustainable, long-term funding solution for our sector.”