At least 16,000 elderly patients who were discharged from hospitals to care homes during the height of the pandemic were not COVID-19 tested, it has been estimated.
Analysis of NHS data by The Times shows that up to 16,000 of the 25,000 people discharged to care homes between 17 March and 15 April were not tested.
Government guidance until 15 April said testing was only required if patients being discharged had obvious symptoms.
The lack of discharge testing has been highlighted as one of the leading factors in the high number of care home outbreaks, which have resulted in around 20,000 deaths.
Shadow Minister for Social Care, Liz Kendall said: “Rigorous testing on discharge and sufficient supplies of PPE came too late to stem the spread of the virus through care homes.”
CEO of Care England, Martin Green OBE, added the focus on the NHS during the pandemic had been to the “detriment of the adult social care sector”.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “These figures are from less than one third of Trusts. At every stage we have been guided by the latest scientific advice, and on 13 March care homes received advice, setting out actions around infection control and isolating residents or staff displaying symptoms.
“Alongside an extra £1.3 billion to support the hospital discharge process, and to further reduce the risk of infection, regular testing for staff and residents has now begun starting with homes for over 65s and those with dementia before extending to all adult care homes.”