A CARE home provider will contest a watchdog report regarding the number of deaths at its facilities.

Barchester, which runs Ashcombe House, St Thomas care home and Marnel Lodge in Basingstoke, as well as Cherry Blossom in Bramley, was unhappy with the report released by the Care Quality Commission, which revealed the number of deaths from Covid in care homes.

It said there had been 16 Covid deaths across Barchester's four homes in the Basingstoke area - including nine at Marnel Lodge in Popley, four at Cherry Blossom, two at Ashcombe House and one at St Thomas' Care Home.

The wider report revealed 103 Covid deaths at Basingstoke's care homes, including 28 at Pemberley House - the deadliest figure in Hampshire.

Now, the provider has confirmed to the Gazette it will contest just under a third of the Covid-19 deaths listed at its homes.

It is because the figures covers deaths of residents involving Covid-19 under the care of the provider as notified to CQC, regardless of where the virus was contracted or where the death occurred, including in the care home, in hospital, in an ambulance or in any other setting.

For example, a resident may have been admitted from a care home to hospital with a fracture, contracted Covid-19 while in hospital, and subsequently died without returning to the care home.

The provider must notify CQC of the death of their resident and that this was involving Covid-19, but this would not necessarily indicate that there was Covid-19 present in the care home.

A death can also be included as a Covid-19 death if it happened with 28 days of a positive test.

A spokesperson for Barchester said: “We are deeply saddened by the losses and we send our condolences to all family and friends affected.

"Throughout the pandemic, the elderly and vulnerable have been more susceptible to COVID-19 and sadly some of our residents lost their lives to this awful virus.

"It has been a challenging time, with very little known about the virus, at the beginning of the pandemic, and no testing available for a number of months.

"It is also important to note that the data includes deaths that are suspected rather than confirmed and also deaths where residents may have first contracted COVID in hospital. In regards to our Basingstoke and Bramley homes we are contesting just under a third of the deaths listed for those reasons.

"The teams within our homes have very high standards, and they have worked relentlessly to do all they can to keep residents and staff safe from the virulent disease that is COVID-19.

"Our homes have had full PPE and their well-trained teams have worked tirelessly to follow infection control protocols in line with public health guidance which has constantly been changing.

"We are continuing to ensure all protocols are followed to help keep the virus at bay, and all staff and residents, where medically possible, have been vaccinated, which we know is a key element of protection.

"We cannot comment on individual cases but our thoughts are with our residents, their families and friends and we are forever thankful for their kind support and kind wishes.”

In January, The Gazette revealed that Barchester's Marnel Lodge care home declared a Covid outbreak after a number of residents died.

Neither the CQC or Barchester would officially confirm the number of deaths at the time, although the CQC data now suggests this to be nine.

Reacting to the figures, Cllr Jacky Tustain, a Labour councillor for Popley, said her "heart goes out to those impacted".

She told The Gazette: “These figures are a sad reminder of family members lost before their time during the pandemic, of those we couldn’t say goodbye to properly, despite all the efforts, commitment and hard work seen in our care homes.

"We owe so much to all these care workers and everyone working to overcome the challenges the COVID crisis has brought us.

"My heart goes out to those impacted by the loss of those dear to them and hope they find peace in their time of grief.”