The number of deaths as a result of COVID-19 in care homes has been massively underestimated, it has been claimed.
The National Care Forum (NCF) said that it believes that as many as 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all its member residential and nursing homes as a result of coronavirus.
Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3rd April.
The NCF, which represents not-for-profit independent sector care providers, said its findings highlight major flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.
It collected more than 30,000 people in the UK and said that, across those specific homes, in the week between 7 April and 13 April, there had been 299 deaths linked to coronavirus. That was treble the figure for the previous week and double that in the whole of the preceding month.
If that number was reflected across all residential and nursing homes, NCF estimated there have been 4,040 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes which are not yet included in official figures.
Health officials say they are trying hard to recalibrate the difference between centrally-collected statistics and those collected by external agencies.