There were 66% more care home deaths in Wales than seen in the average year during the first 16 weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.
That compares with 79% for England, 62% in Scotland, and 46% in Northern Ireland. Thousands of hospital patients were discharged into homes at the start of the crisis.
Across the UK, more than 500,000 adults lived in a residential or nursing home at the start or the pandemic and one in 25 is believed to have died from the virus.
Researchers led by the University of Stirling looked at ‘excess’ deaths, which are those above the expected number, for the report published by the International Long Term Care Policy Network.
These figures may pick up those who died from coronavirus but were not identified as having it plus those who died indirectly as a result of the virus.
Professor David Bell, lead author of the research from the University of Stirling, said: “Given the variation in testing and death registration practices across the UK, it will never be possible to unequivocally assign care home deaths during the pandemic to Covid-19 or other causes.
“Therefore, measuring excess deaths presents the most reliable approach by which to assess the relative failure or success in handling the pandemic in care homes.
“Based on that internationally recognised approach, Scotland, Wales, and particularly England appear to have performed poorly.”
Last week Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he was hoping to secure an agreement in the next few weeks that would top up sick pay for care workers who are having to self-isolate due to coronavirus.
Mr Gething said he wanted the issue resolved “in weeks not months” but added an announcement was not imminent as details of any arrangement needed to be clarified with employers.
“We are coming up to the autumn period where more of us will have coronavirus-like symptoms,” Mr Gething said.
“There will be people out of the workplace, self-isolating and doing the right thing and we know this is a risk.
“Financial support is a real issue, especially in the residential care sector where people are working with vulnerable people.
“So as soon as possible I’m looking at injecting some urgency into getting an agreement.”