Shocking figures suggested the number of elderly who have succumbed to the virus in care homes was even higher than the Daily Mail revealed it to be earlier this week.

About 5,300 care home residents have died from coronavirus but the true toll could be even higher as doctors are told they do not have to declare Covid-19 on death certificates, it has been claimed. 
Shocking figures tonight suggested the number of elderly who have succumbed to the virus in care homes was even higher than the Daily Mail revealed it to be earlier this week. 
In the first comprehensive survey of the sector experts said 1.4 per cent of older residents in social care have died outside hospital due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus as of April 15. 
By extrapolation, there have been an estimated 5,300 deaths in total.  
The figures from healthcare analysts LaingBuisson are based on responses from groups representing 13 per cent of UK care homes. 
They suggest up to 28 per cent of coronavirus deaths in the UK may have occurred in care homes. 
The devastating statistics came amid claims that doctors were being told there was no need to write on death certificates that patients died from Covid-19. 
A person enters Coplands Nursing Home in Wembley, northwest London, on Thursday
Industry bosses have also relayed fears the killer disease may have struck three quarters of Britain’s care homes, amid growing fury over the government’s handling of the crisis.
The chief executive of one major UK provider today warned the spread of the killer infection in homes is ‘far more widespread than acknowledged’. 
Barchester Healthcare’s Peter Calveley said around half of its homes have been hit by cases of the life-threatening illness
Barchester Healthcare’s Peter Calveley revealed around half of its homes have been hit by confirmed or suspected cases of the life-threatening illness.
But he admitted the rate is closer to 75 per cent for some providers – other industry figures have raised similar concerns that two-thirds of homes have been struck. 
Leaked hospital guidance obtained by not-for-profit organisation the Good Law Project tells medics filling in death certificates that pneumonia or communityacquired pneumonia are acceptable to put as the direct cause of death. 
It states Covid-19 may be mentioned in another area of the form relating to indirect causes of death should the doctor wish. It means that the true death toll of the coronavirus may never be known. 
The Good Law Project said: If doctors are being gently discouraged from reporting deaths as Covid-19, we have no way of knowing if the Government figures on deaths from coronavirus the daily in hospital figures as well as the weekly Office for National Statistics figures are accurate.  
A whistleblower in the south east of England told Channel 4 news that even if they suspected coronavirus, some doctors were listing long-term conditions such as dementia as the cause of death. 
A visitors’ notice stating cases of COVID-19 within Coplands Nursing Home in Wembley, northwest London
Despite the startling claims from providers, Health Secretary Matt Hancock today insisted only 15 per cent of homes have been hit by COVID-19.
The family doctor said: I know GPs writing bronchopneumonia or frailty of old age on death certificates when they strongly suspect Covid, to avoid running into problems. 
They said doctors were drowning in work, dealing with patients in care homes whod been stable for years suddenly becoming unwell, and because of a lack of testing there was high anxiety about what to do. 
The whistleblower added: If you dont document the cause of death as presumed Covid its the final insult really. 
The patient has died from this pandemic and their numbers are not going to be included. 
Care home residents say they are being asked to sign letters agreeing to not be taken to hospital if they become ill the coronavirus.
Elderly people are being asked to sign the agreements en masse as hospitals come under intense pressure from thousands of patients with the infectious disease.
People over the age of 80 are known to be the most at risk of dying if they catch COVID-19 and account for 52 per cent of all the fatalities in England so far.
And the NHS has admitted that life-support machines could have to be prioritised for younger or healthier patients if an overloaded hospital is left with a 50/50 choice. 
One woman living in a care home in Wiltshire, Elizabeth Diacon, 97, said she and ‘several friends’ were asked to sign the letters but claims she did not feel pressured.
‘I’m not afraid of dying but I’m rather afraid of how I might die,’ Ms Diacon said. ‘I’d rather do it here than go to hospital.’  
The Mail has campaigned for better recognition for care homes battling the virus and has reported a series of harrowing stories showing that residents are being left to die in huge numbers. 
It came as it also emerged that guidance released by Public Health England on February 25, which has since been withdrawn, had said it was very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will be infected. 
The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales in the two weeks up to April 3 5 per cent of all coronavirus deaths during that period. 
But, the Alzheimers Society had previously estimated there had been at least 2,500 deaths from care homes. 
As the Government came under increasing pressure to include care home deaths in daily figures, health secretary Matt Hancock revealed one in seven care homes had two or more cases of the virus. 
Yesterday Four Seasons Health Care revealed 180 residents have died from coronavirus across its more than 200 homes. 
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said it was working around the clock to provide the sector with the support it needed. 
A Public Health England spokesman said: The initial advice accurately reflected the situation at the time when there was no community transmission, meaning there was a limited risk of the infection getting in to a care home. 
Once there was evidence of widespread transmission and we moved into the delay phase, new guidance was immediately put in place. 
Any suggestion that we said that infections in care homes would be unlikely in the current phase of the outbreak is wrong.   
Despite the startling claims from providers, Health Secretary Matt Hancock today insisted only 15 per cent of homes have been hit by COVID-19.
Mr Hancock’s figure is also staggeringly lower than what ministers have reported in Scotland, where up to 40 per cent of homes are battling outbreaks. 
It comes as a leaked letter today revealed care home bosses accused Number 10 of a ‘shambolic’ response to the sector’s coronavirus crisis.
Insiders said they were receiving only ‘paltry’ and ‘haphazard’ deliveries of essential items such as masks, gloves and aprons – mandatory for all healthcare workers.
The letter, leaked to the BBC, warned staff were left confused and having to do extra work because of mixed messaging put out by government officials. 
Elizabeth Diacon, pictured left in pink, met with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, in May last year to discuss her role in military intelligence at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, in World War Two
Mr Calveley today said Barchester, which runs 236 homes across the UK, had 663 residents with confirmed or suspected coronavirus in 118 homes. 
He also said his company had recorded 196 deaths – two thirds of whom succumbed to the illness in the homes, and not hospitals.
But Mr Calveley said he was aware of ‘other care providers that are at 75 per cent’, adding: ‘It is far more widespread in care homes than has previously been acknowledged.’
Other care homes – including one of the biggest in Britain – have painted similarly bleak pictures, saying the true number of care homes struck down could be as high as two thirds. 
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 around 60 per cent of our homes have suspected COVID-19 cases.
Mr Richardson added it was ‘consistent with the figures that have been published by colleagues from other firms within the industry’.
He said: ‘We believe the latest Government estimate, that 15 per cent of care homes are reporting COVID-19 symptoms, materially understates the true position.’
The group said around 180 residents with symptoms have died, and between 600 and 700 residents are currently showing symptoms.
The Government has this week faced intense scrutiny over care homes’ involvement in the crisis, with workers saying they feel ‘forgotten’ amid a focus on the NHS. 
A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health at the weekend has shown the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’.
It raised concerns about testing in care homes, funding for the sector, and inadequate amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, the BBC reported.
Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.
It said the situation around PPE, which is now mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.
The care sector, which looks after around 400,000 of Britain’s most vulnerable people, was being overlooked while officials focused on the NHS, Adass said as they raised fears of a ‘significant imbalance’.
The bosses added that they welcomed coronavirus swab testing for people working in social care but said it looked as it if it would be ‘rolled out without being given thought to who is going to be tested and what we are going to do with the result’.
Authorities are accused of not appreciating the true scale of outbreaks in residential and nursing homes, which are packed with old and sickly people. 
Health officials do not record deaths in care homes in the figures that are released each day, unlike countries such as France. 
The most recent data for England and Wales – which only goes up to April 3 – shows there has been 217 deaths in total.
Scotland, which is around one week ahead in collecting death data, has recorded 237 fatalities in care homes up until April 12.
It means Britain’s known coronavirus care home death toll is at least 454. However, industry insiders fear the true toll is around 4,000.  
It comes as it was revealed a total of 14 residents at two authority-run care homes in Portsmouth have died after showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Portsmouth City Council revealed nine residents of nursing care home Harry Sotnick House and four at Shearwater residential home have died.  
The Health Secretary was this morning asked about the validity of claims that up to two thirds of all homes have outbreaks of COVID-19.
He appeared to deny the claims made by care home executives and said: ‘It is 15 per cent have two or more cases.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, he described the figure as ‘robust’ and said Number 10 has ‘high confidence’ in it. 
Pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock with the ‘badge of honour’ for care workers he unveiled yesterday as he faces criticism for the Government’s handling of the crisis
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today put forward a view of the care home situation that was in stark contrast to what insiders have said.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Hancock said there had been outbreaks of COVID-19 in 15 per cent of care homes – one in seven.
‘That is a robust figure that we have high confidence in,’ the Health Secretary said.
But his claim is in stark contrast to statistics from Scotland, which show that 40 per cent of all the country’s care homes have reported cases of the virus.
It was vastly different to the claim made yesterday by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said around 40 per cent of care homes had reported cases.
Britain’s coronavirus crisis was laid further bare today with a leaked letter from care chiefs to the Department of Health.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) raised concerns about testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and funding for care workers.
The letter, written on Saturday and leaked to the BBC, warned early deliveries of PPE have been ‘paltry’ with more recent drops ‘haphazard’.   
And it shockingly claimed some PPE meant for care workers is being confiscated by border control before being sent to the NHS.  
It argued that statements from three Governmental bodies on the shielding scheme for people particularly at risk from the illness have been contradictory.
Official figures revealed yesterday a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have been in care homes. 
Data from the National Records of Scotland showed 962 people diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19 had died.
Of those, 237 (24.6 per cent) were in care homes, 586 in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in an undisclosed location.
The figure was five times higher than the 5 per cent number given by the Office for National Statistics, which collates data in England and Wales.
Government experts found 217 of 3,700 deaths had been recorded in care homes across the two nations registered up until April 3. 
The ONS statistics also showed that another 5 per cent of deaths had been recorded outside of hospitals, such as in hospices. 
Separate figures showed the true number of deaths was 52 per cent higher than the count given by the Department of Health every day.
The ONS counted 5,979 deaths in England by April 3, compared to the 3,939 figure given by health chiefs on the same day – a difference of around 2,000. 
The Department of Health figures are affected by a backlog in hospital recordings, meaning that hundreds of deaths are not registered to be counted. 
Though it welcomes the rolling out of testing for care workers, it said that it is being done without thought as to what the sector will do with the results. 
And Adass criticised Number 10 for recruiting volunteers, saying it ‘diverted 750,000 volunteers away from supporting local communities’.
A ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives, experts warned last night. 
They believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.
GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 
The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 
But industry figures say the true count is much higher potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 
Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 
Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis.  
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy.  
It also accused Whitehall of not giving the care sector the same consideration as the NHS. 
A Department of Health spokesperson said the government’s plan to support social care was ‘comprehensive’.
They included that it involved ‘ramping up testing, overhauling the way PPE is being delivered to care homes and helping to minimise the spread of the virus’.
The DH spokesperson added: ‘We will continue to work closely with the social care sector to ensure they have everything they need to respond to this outbreak.’
Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, claimed the concerns raised in the letter were ‘extremely worrying’.
It came as it emerged that the NHS in England rowed back on ‘prejudiced’ guidance to avoid taking elderly residents to A&E if it could be helped.
The A&E guidance had been published over the Easter weekend but has since been withdrawn, the HSJ reported.
Homes had been advised to avoid taking residents to A&E if they had problems that could be dealt with elsewhere.
An anonymous boss inside the NHS told the news site the guidance was ‘prejudiced against older people’.
They added that it would have placed ‘obstacles’ between vulnerable elderly people and emergency departments.  
NHS England said it regularly updates guidance and this time had changed it within four days.  
Older people are widely known to be the most at risk of dying if they catch the killer coronavirus, according to data.
In England 52 per cent of all victims so far have been over 80 and a further 40 per cent were between 60 and 79. 
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced a U-turn and said families with loved ones dying in care homes will be allowed to visit.
He also vowed to outlaw the blanket use of ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) plans, which staff claim they’ve been asked to routinely sign during the crisis.
It comes after shocking reports of elderly victims dying alone in care homes, with families complaining of having to say their last goodbyes over Skype.  
Mr Hancock faced ridicule last night as he unveiled a new badge for under-pressure care workers amid fury over the rising death toll of vulnerable patients in homes.
The Health Secretary used the daily press coronavirus press conference to reveal a ‘single brand’ for care workers to allow them to access the same perks as NHS staff.
He said he hoped it would be seen as a ‘badge of honour’, but his comments were criticised amid rising anger over a lack of PPE for staff.
Critics pointed out that the badge had been launched last summer as ‘a unifying symbol of pride and quality in care’, and so was not even new.  
Its criminal: Families disgust after 24 residents die of coronavirus in ONE care home and six die and eight are infected out of just 24 in another
A third of the residents at a virus-hit care home have died in just ten days.
In a stark example of the crisis in the sector, six passed away as staff struggled to contain an outbreak.
Last night the daughter of one of the dead said the state care homes had been left in was ‘wicked’. 
Rhona White, 64 whose mother Peggy Grainger, 86, had a moving final letter from her family read to her because they were unable to visit said: ‘The whole situation is just criminal. People are being allowed to die in these homes and nobody seems to really care about it.’
Some 85 per cent of carers at Philia Care Home in Peterborough have either fallen sick or had to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers. 
The home had 18 residents at the start of the month. Six died in a ten-day period from April 3.
Eight of the remaining 12 are believed to have been infected, although three of these have recovered. Staff try to stay healthy, but many struggle to get hold of personal protective equipment (PPE).
At one point, they even resorted to making home-made visors from plastic file wallets held over their faces with Alice bands.
Bosses yesterday warned inadequate financial support and the dramatic loss of residents was creating a funding crisis that could result in closure and would be repeated in homes up and down the UK.
Managing director Carol Smit said: ‘We will not be able to sustain this indefinitely.’
Manager Heidi Seldon, who has moved into the home and sleeps in her office, said: ‘What I wasn’t prepared for was how hard it was going to be, emotionally, watching so many of my residents suffering from coronavirus.
‘We’re just trying to hold ourselves together and hope that there will be some light at the end of the tunnel.’
Deputy manager Zdenka Dunczikiva has returned to work after falling ill. The 29-year-old, who is staying at the home round-the-clock and has left her five-year-old son with her parents, said: ‘Sadly six people have passed away and it looks like more will go. The next few days are going to be really, really hard.’
The first resident to die, on April 3, was retired engineer Ian Leverington, 70. His only child, Haley Leverington, 38, said: ‘My dad would still be alive today if it wasn’t for the virus.
‘It’s a hidden scandal because the death toll could be twice as bad if they took notice of the care homes.
‘But they’re only looking at NHS hospitals and the general public. Just because they’re elderly doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to be recognised.’
Other victims included Gillian Howard, 77, who died on April 8 and was described by the care home as ‘an extravagant person’ who ‘enjoyed telling stories of her past and her connections with the Royal Family’.
George Smith, who died last Friday aged 88, was ‘a caring man who has spent his whole life caring for his own loved ones’ while Mrs Grainger, who died on Monday, was described as a gentle, loving person who always put her family first’.
The home, which was rated good by the Care Quality Commission last year, is one of six operated by Trust Care Management Group. None of the others has so far been hit by Covid-19. 
Some 85 per cent of the carers at the virus-hit care home in Peterborough (pictured) have either fallen sick or are having to self-isolate after coming into contact with carriers
The local care commissioning group (CCG) recently increased its budget by just 4 per cent less than the shortfall caused by rises in the national living wage, inflation and soaring PPE costs.
A quarter of its annual PPE budget has been spent in just three weeks on goggles, gowns, visors and gloves. Senior staff also claimed the CCG made a verbal agreement to block purchase all the beds for six months but withdrew it because of the virus outbreak.
Mrs Smit last night called on the Government to end the two-tier system under which the NHS pays no VAT on PPE but care homes pay full price. She said an ’emergency measure’ to remove VAT during the crisis should be introduced, adding: ‘At least that would give us some kind of funding relief.’
There are also concerns about who will administer end-of-life medication including pain relief.
GPs stopped visiting the home at the start of the pandemic and community nurses have warned that they may not be able to attend in future due to staffing problems.
Chris Graham, the group’s national operations manager, said: ‘They [staff] have been offered training by Zoom or Skype. 
But the home will need to be insured and indemnified. There has to be training and competency.’ 
Trust Care Management Group is owned by Mrs Smit and her business partner, and run by two families. 
It started with two care homes in 2010. Philia Lodge was the fourth. The home normally has a budget of £46 a week for PPE. In the last three weeks it has spent £1,236.
Public Health England delivered 300 face masks to every care facility at the beginning of the crisis, but ‘with no guidance’.
Mr Graham said: ‘We didn’t use it at the time because we didn’t have a positive case. But people [at other homes] were using them because they thought they had been delivered to use [as a preventive measure].’
Peterborough City Council also provided four days’ worth of gloves and aprons after it set up a Covid-19 response team. But there were no goggles or face masks as they were no longer in stock they had already been sent to NHS hospitals.
Mrs Smit said: ‘The Government should have had a contingency plan.’ No sick residents were turned away from hospital but the home was usually told to keep them in their care. Those who were ill were assessed by a GP [remotely], or by paramedics or call handlers on the 111 service.
Mr Graham said: ‘We were told they had to stay at the home because they were reaching the end of their life.’