THE true scale of the coronavirus crisis in care homes has been laid bare — as health chiefs revealed more than half of homes could have outbreaks.

Two leading care home providers ­— both with facilities in Bolton ­— said more than 500 residents had died in their homes.

Sir David Behan, executive chairman of HC-One, the country’s largest care home operator with more than 300 homes, including Four Seasons in Breightmet and Meadow Bank House in Great Lever, said 232 of their establishments had been affected, with 311 residents and one staff member dying as a result of the illness in the last three weeks.

And MHA, which runs Beechville in Bolton, has confirmed they have had outbreaks in around half of their homes, with 210 deaths.

Cllr Andy Morgan, Bolton Council’s adult social care boss and who also runs Bakewells Care Home in Deane revealed there were people in Bolton care homes with the illness or symptoms.

He said: “We have got incidents of Covid-19 in care settings and we have got a lot of people in residential care settings with symptoms.

He added the daily death figures produced by NHS England do not reflect the true extent of the death toll as they do not include people who died from the illness in the community or care homes.

He said: “I don’t really understand why people who are in care settings or in the community are not being counted in the numbers because that daily number is not reflective of the true picture.

“For transparency and ease the numbers should be all together."

The borough’s 36 care homes are required to report daily, to the council, any coronavirus outbreaks or shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

He added: “Our officers have a handle on where the pressures are and where equipment is needed."

Care homes in the area have agreed to share equipment, and sometimes even staff to get by. “Everyone is working together quite well. All the care homes have given a commitment to share resources.

"That said, it is acknowledged that there is a lack of PPE and it should have got out there quicker, but the system is now responding.”

He added that staff, some of whom are now returning to work after recovering from Covid-19 themselves, are doing “an absolutely fantastic job”.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, last night said not enough was being done to help support people working in the social care sector.

He said: “The distress signals coming out of our social care system are deeply worrying.

"We urgently need Government to provide a stronger support package for social care ­— more testing, more help with staffing, increased funding and crucially more protective equipment.

“There are widespread and persistent calls from within the social care system for urgent action.

"People on the frontline are saying they feel under-prepared, under-resourced, and forgotten.

"The Government needs to ensure that the delivery of PPE to all social care settings is much more predictable to avoid shortages and care homes running out entirely.

“But testing is also crucial for staff and residents in our care homes to minimise the risk of spread of the virus.

"This needs to be urgently made available for everyone involved in social care. The Government should also look at the volunteer database and those who have returned to work in the NHS to see if additional staff can be made available to support those working in social care.

“There are real pressures on our care system, and it needs to receive increased funding and to be treated on a par with the National Health Service to help us get through this.

"The hundreds of thousands of residents in care homes across the UK, and the dedicated staff who support them, should not be left to feel like an afterthought.”