There was a big increase in the number of unexpected deaths in nursing homes in 2020 and 2021, according to a report carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the State's health watchdog.

The number of unexpected deaths recorded during this period were nearly two and a half times more than in 2019.

Before the pandemic in 2019, there were 709 unexpected deaths in nursing homes.

In 2020 there were 1,833 unexpected deaths and 1,895 in 2021.

In an overview of nursing home care, the regulator says only 12 nursing homes did not report a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 between March 2020 and December 2021.

HIQA's report is based on the Chief Inspector's regulation of designated centres for older people in 2020 and 2021. 947 inspections were carried out during that time.

91% of nursing homes reported at least one case of the virus during this time.

Nursing homes were found to be either compliant or substantially compliant with 85% of the regulations that were assessed.

However, inspections also identified areas for improvement such as fire safety, governance and management and infection control.

The report outlines the significant negative impact the pandemic had on the lives of residents.

It says the single greatest issue for residents was a sense of isolation from families, friends and their wider community.

It found that for much of 2020 and the early part of 2021 many residents continued to isolate in their rooms.

Many residents expressed feeling frustrated and lonely when visiting restrictions did not allow their families and friends to come and see them.

The report says Covid-19 restrictions meant that many residents received end-of-life care without the presence of a loved one to support them.

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It says some relatives and friends remain traumatised by the experience of watching through a bedroom window as a loved one passed away.

Others described their worries that their family member may have passed away alone or may not have received the care they needed.

It says that staff in nursing homes were also severely impacted by their experiences.

The report found that the rollout of the national vaccination programme in December 2020 was a turning point for residents.

It shows that 30 nursing homes closed between the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2021.

Twenty-five centres closed voluntarily, and five centres were closed by the Chief Inspector.