COVID-19 care home deaths data published after ruling
A breakdown of the number of coronavirus related deaths in individual care homes in Scotland has been published, following a ruling by the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.
The Care Inspectorate, which looks into the quality of care in Scotland, received its first notification of a COVID-19 death at a care home on 16 March 2020 and said that from then until the end of March 2021, it had received 3,774 notifications of residents' deaths.
While it has published overall numbers, details of the number of coronavirus deaths in individual care homes were being withheld by the National Records of Scotland - a move that the information commissioner said lacked “transparency”.
The Care Inspectorate figures found that care homes for older people were most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with 3,761 (99.7 per cent) of the deaths occurring in that setting.
A total of 510 care homes for older people reported at least one COVID-19 related death.
As the size of a care home increased, so did the rate of residents dying from COVID. There were 2.1 deaths per 100 places in care homes with up to 20 beds, rising to 12.6 per 100 places in those with more than 80 beds.
Care homes located in the most populated areas had higher rates of virus deaths than those in the most remote areas, with 11.6 deaths per 100 places in large urban areas compared with 3.7 deaths per 100 places in remote small towns.
The data is also broken down by local authority area, as well as by provider and individual care homes.
A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: "We are acutely aware of the potential distress and possible harm that publication of some information may cause.
"Therefore, it is very important that data relating to deaths is considered in context to have a fuller understanding of the impact of the virus in care settings. Following a decision by the information commissioner and after internal review, the data has now been published.
"We know from our inspections and our experience of the pandemic that the relationship between the quality of care experienced by people in care homes, and the impact of COVID-19 is complex.
"We know that any care service can be affected by COVID-19 and that residents of care homes were tragically particularly vulnerable to the virus. We also know that the quality of care experienced by residents did not necessarily provide an indicator of the risks in relation to the virus.
"Our findings relating to care homes indicate there may be relationships between a high number of deaths related to COVID-19 and size of service and geographical location, including urban or rural settings.
"We continue to undertake analysis to help us better understand what we can learn from these findings to support quality improvement within the care sector."
In the first wave of the pandemic, more than 1,300 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes in Scotland before a testing regime was in place.
Responding to the Care Inspectorate's publication of the data, Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour deputy leader and social care spokeswoman, said residents, staff and families of care homes had been "cruelly let down" by the Scottish Government.
She said: "What happened in Scotland’s care homes during the pandemic was nothing short of a scandal and the government must be held to account for its catastrophic failure to keep vulnerable people safe.
"The publication of this data is welcome but the fact that it has not been available so far is extraordinary. The data also shows a figure which is at least 14 per cent higher than previously suggested by National Records of Scotland figures.
"Care home residents, staff and their families have been cruelly let down by the Scottish Government and there must be a reckoning at the highest level for those who allowed this tragedy to unfold.
"That’s why we need a Scotland-specific inquiry into the handling of the pandemic by the Scottish Government."