Several councils threatened to withhold funding to help care homes deal with the coronavirus outbreak if they didn't agree to take in COVID-19 patients, Sky News can reveal.
The policy was changed in the middle of April but some care homes believe the damage had already been done by then.
Sky News has obtained letters from several councils saying they would withhold so-called uplift payments, extra money to deal with the outbreak, unless the homes agreed to new terms including taking in confirmed COVID-19 patients.
None of the care homes, who said they feared the policy caused the virus to spread in their premises, wanted to be identified for fear of repercussions.
But one told us: "My anguish and sadness is purely arisen from the thoughtless and neglectful conduct of the local authorities demanding that providers admit into their homes COVID-19 positive and untested residents.
"This has undoubtedly caused a huge spike in infections and resulted in deaths that were avoidable."
More from Covid-19
With the help of Care North East and the Registered Nursing Homes Association, Sky News contacted a large cross-section of care homes in Britain. More than 90 responded.
- Did you feel pressure from hospitals to take patients before 15 April? 70% told us they did.
- Did hospitals discharge patients to your care home with COVID-19 symptoms before 15 April? 41% said yes.
- Do you think COVID-19 positive patients discharged from hospital caused the virus to spread in your care home? 38% said yes.
The original government advice given to care homes said "negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home".
This was replaced with new advice on 15 April which read: "We can now confirm we will move to institute a policy of testing all residents prior to admission to care homes.
"This will begin with all those being discharged from hospital."