Over 90 care home residents in Andover and the surrounding area died from Covid-19, figures have revealed.

92 people passed away within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19 between April 2020 and March 2021, according to figures published by care regulator the CQC last month. While these deaths are attributed to Covid-19, the cause of death may have been caused by another factor.

Among the 11 homes included in the data is Andover Nursing Home, which, with 25 deaths recorded, reported one of the highest mortality figures in the county. The Advertiser reported in February that the home was being supported by Public Health England after at least five residents died as the result of an outbreak of Covid-19.

In a statement, Louise Makepeace and Dr Ramneek Greywall, the home’s matron and proprietor respectively, said that the year had been “very challenging”, and that the home ‘continued to give residents the best quality of life they could’.

They said: “We avoided having any cases Covid amongst our residents for almost a year. Our first case was detected in January 2021. The reported deaths at ANH from Covid were based on a positive Covid result within 28 days of death.

Some residents died from Covid and others passed away from frailty and other co-morbidities but with a recent positive Covid result. Every death is met with sadness regardless of Covid.

“We take some comfort knowing that in their last illness our residents all received the very best care, and we are extremely grateful to our staff who have worked bravely and tirelessly throughout the pandemic. We have a 98 per cent vaccination rate among our staff and residents and hope this will offer protection for our close-knit community in the coming months.”

Also named in the figures are Willow Court and Copper Beeches, two homes run by Hampshire County Council, with 14 deaths at the former from Covid-19, and four at the latter. While noting that the number of deaths was “higher than might be expected”, the council said that the figures are “not indicative of the quality of care provided”.

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, the council’s executive lead member for adult services and public health said: “Our care teams at Willow Court and Copper Beeches, and across all our homes, continue to pull out all the stops to look after and protect the many frail individuals in our care. This includes supporting and encouraging vaccination, regular testing, separate care arrangements for those with symptoms of the virus, limiting visiting where advisable and scrupulous hand hygiene in accordance with national guidance.

“We are grateful for the exceptional care provided by our staff, often in very difficult circumstances, over the past year, and are inspired and encouraged by the many messages of support we continue to receive from families, loved ones and the general public.”

The deaths at the council’s homes all occurred in the first two quarters of the year, between April and September.

One of the reasons it gives for the increase in deaths is that government guidance on testing those discharged from hospital to care homes was not issued until April 15, with three quarters of patients discharged estimated by the BBC to have been untested. Even then, there were reportedly difficulties in obtaining tests.

While the exact consequences of the lack of testing are unknown, the majority of deaths in Andover’s care homes from Covid-19 occurred between April and June 2020, when 49 deaths occurred.

Arbory Residential Home, an assisted living unit in Andover, saw all of its nine deaths occur in these months.

A spokesperson for the home said their thoughts “provided and continues to provide safe and person centred care.”

They said: “Our message to all people across the UK who lost friends and loved ones is simple, our thoughts were and are with all of those who were taken from us by this cruel and unpredictable virus.

“We, like other care providers, were deeply moved by the dignity and humanity shown by friends and families and our thoughts and thanks are with them all.”

Following lockdown restrictions, Covid deaths were limited during July and September, and October and December 2020, with only three deaths taking place. Two of these were at Willow Court, while the third was at Harrier Grange, which reported seven deaths. The home did not respond to a request for comment.

Subsequently, in the second wave of the pandemic between January and March 2021, deaths rose to a level broadly similar to the first wave, with 40 deaths across Andover. The majority of these were at Andover Nursing Home, with a number of deaths in single figures across many homes in the area.

Eight occurred at Winton Care Home, out of a total of 10, with a spokesperson for the Nether Wallop home, which specialises in dementia care saying that no Covid deaths have occurred since February.

They said: “Our staff worked tirelessly during the pandemic to provide the best care and support for all our residents, and we couldn’t be prouder of our teams. It has been an extremely challenging time for everyone in a care home setting, but for those suffering from dementia it has been a particularly confusing time and, therefore, especially difficult to shield and protect individuals.

“Throughout, we have always been in the closest contact with our residents and their families and have always acted in their best interests according to the government’s practice guidance at the time.

“The health and wellbeing of our residents is always our first priority and we want to reassure friends and families of our continued commitment to the highest standards of safety at our home.”

The Enham Trust also recorded a death in this time, with the CEO of the charity, which supports those with disabilities, having taken to social media in January to call on its residents to be prioritised for vaccination after the first cases were recorded on site, as well as contacting MP Kit Malthouse.

Speaking at the time, Heath Gunn said: “It just strikes me as crazy that I’m having to write to my MP to get help. It should be a given that the most vulnerable people in society are getting this vaccine first, and it’s just not the case.”

Following the release of the figures, which do not include care homes with less than 10 beds, Kate Terroni, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “In considering this data it is important to remember that every number represents a life lost – and families, friends and those who cared for them who are having to face the sadness and consequences of their death.

“We are grateful for the time that families who lost their loved ones during the pandemic have spent meeting with us and the personal experiences they have shared. These discussions have helped us shape our thinking around the highly sensitive issue of publishing information on the numbers of death notifications involving COVID-19 received from individual care homes.

“We have a duty to be transparent and to act in the public interest, and we made a commitment to publish data at this level, but only once we felt able to do so as accurately and safely as possible given the complexity and sensitivity of the data. In doing so, we aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of the impact of COVID-19 on care homes, the people living in them and their families. It is important to be clear, however, that although this data relates to deaths of people who were care home residents, many of them did not die in or contract COVID-19 in a care home.

“As we publish this data, we ask for consideration and respect to be shown to people living in care homes, to families who have been affected, and to the staff who have done everything they could, in incredibly difficult circumstances, to look after those in their care.”