Winter deaths in Scotland spike to 18-year high

Written by Tom Freeman on 16 October 2018 in News

Eligible adults urged to seek vaccination against flu after figures show the highest winter death rate in 18 years

Glasgow necropolis - Bethany Weeks cc2.0 

The number of winter deaths in Scotland between December 2017 and March 2018 reached an 18-year high, according to new stats released today by National Records of Scotland.

There were 23,137 deaths in Scotland during the period.

Known as the ‘seasonal increase in mortality’, the figures also show how much winter impacts on the mortality rate by comparing it to averages at other parts of the preceeding year.

The figures show 4,800 ‘additional’ deaths in the 2017/18 winter, up from 2,730 in the 2016/17 winter, and the largest such figure since 5,190 in winter 1999/2000.

This increase comes after a steady decline in numbers since the 1950s.

Most ‘additional’ deaths are usually caused by winter’s impact on degenerative diseases or lung and heart conditions.

The Scottish Government said the rise was consistent with other rises across Europe and the United States.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said the high flu rate last winter was likely to have had a “significant impact” on older people with long-term conditions.

“Flu vaccines are available free to all eligible adults, including everybody aged 65 and older, and protects against a number of different flu strains. Vaccination remains our best defence against flu, and I urge people to take up the offer of a free vaccine,” she said.

Professor Derek Bell OBE, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: "Last winter was one of the harshest for some time, maybe a decade.

“We know that an excess of deaths were reported last winter compared to the seasonal average, in part related to influenza and other respiratory infections.

“As such we continue to encourage all at risk patient groups – and indeed health and care staff - to have their annual flu vaccination. It is also vital to have effective winter planning for all acute and emergency services.”

Scottish Labour’s Shadow health secretary Monica Lennon said the Scottish Government had not prepared enough flu vaccine for the winter ahead.

“Lives are at stake and it’s over to Nicola Sturgeon and her health secretary to reassure the people of Scotland that they are doing everything possible to equip our NHS to reduce preventable deaths this winter.

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