The CQC has released information on the number of residents who died with Covid-19 in each care home, saying it wants to be more transparent, following earlier requests to share the data.
The highest number of Covid deaths recorded in any care home in England was in Wigan, where one home lost 44 residents.
The CQC stressed, however, that the number of Covid deaths in any one care home should not be treated as an indicator of quality or safety of the home.
Factors that could influence the number of deaths include rates of local community transmission, care home size and residents’ age and health and care needs, it said.
Care homes tended to experience more deaths among residents during the pandemic if they were in parts of England with the most coronavirus deaths, and if they were quite large.
The figures illustrate the differences in geography between the north and south of the country, across the first and second waves of the virus.
Around the time of the first wave, the first quarter of 2020-21, care homes in the North West reported the highest number of Covid-19 deaths.
The region also had the highest number of Covid deaths in the wider community, according to figures from Public Health England.
Between April 10 and June 30, 37 large care homes each recorded at least 20 deaths involving Covid-19.
More than half of these homes, 21 of them, were in northern England.
During the peak of the second wave, in the final quarter of 2020-21, care homes in the south east had highest numbers of coronavirus deaths. Deaths in wider society were also high.
In July last year, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand grilled then Health Secretary Matt Hancock on his handling of care home visits during the pandemic
Between January 1 and March 31, 18 large homes recorded at least 20 Covid-19 deaths – only one of these was in northern England.
The figures include care home residents who died in any setting, not just their care home.
The CQC said it did not release the data earlier during the pandemic as it felt it could have had a “serious impact on continuity of care”.
But it said risks have now changed.
It added that the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes has dropped substantially as the vaccine is rolled out.
Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, called for “consideration and respect” to be shown to residents, families and staff.
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She said: “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.”
The Health Foundation said the data shows the government’s claim of placing “a protective ring” around care homes “was not grounded in reality”.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, a membership body for care providers, said: “Every death is a tragedy and it would be highly disrespectful if lessons were not learned at every level. Similarly, every death needs to be seen in context.”
He continued: “We do not believe that this data is a reflection of quality and I would like to pay tribute to all the frontline staff who have done a heroic job and it must not be forgotten that many of them lost their lives too.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, added: “It would be easy to assume that if a care home has experienced a large volume of Covid-19 deaths that must mean it’s not very good, but this would be unfair.
“The care homes that have been impacted the worst are generally in areas where there have been lots of Covid-19 cases in the local community, so this is more a tragic accident of geography than anything else.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman expressed the government’s sympathies, adding: “Throughout the pandemic we have done all we can to protect vulnerable people in adult social care.
“We have provided billions of pounds to support the sector, including on infection and prevention control measures, free PPE, priority vaccinations and additional testing.”