Coronavirus death rates for every care home in Scotland have been revealed today following criticism of attempts to keep the statistics secret.
The Care Inspectorate published the figures in the wake of an appeal led by the DC Thomson titles, The Scotsman, The Herald and STV.
It details the location of 3,774 deaths across Scotland, including 182 in Fife, 171 in Aberdeen, 129 in Aberdeenshire, 104 in Dundee, 103 in Perth and Kinross, 69 in Angus, 65 in Highland, 11 in Moray, five in Shetland and two in the Western Isles.
Labour’s Jackie Baillie said it was “extraordinary” that the data had not been made available before now.
We reported last week that the National Records of Scotland (NRS) had been found in breach of freedom of information (FOI) rules by refusing to reveal the Covid-19 fatality rate for facilities across the nation.
The Scottish Information Commissioner concluded that the agency engaged in arguments that were “speculative in nature” in its attempts to block the publication of the statistics.
And the commissioner found that disclosure of the data would be important to “ensure that older people and their relatives have the necessary information to make an informed decision when choosing a care home or care home provider”.
The Care Inspectorate announced the publication of the data in the wake of the ruling.
A spokesman for the regulator 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.”
The figures confirm that coronavirus death rates in Scotland’s care homes were more than six times higher in larger facilities over the course of the pandemic.
The data shows that fatalities increased from 2.1 deaths per 100 places in facilities with up to 20 places to 12.6 deaths per 100 places in those with more than 80 places.
The Care Inspectorate watchdog has recorded more coronavirus-related deaths in care homes than the National Records of Scotland (NRS) – 3,774 between March 16 2020 and March 31 2021 – although it said its data could not be of the same quality.
“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,” the Care Inspectorate spokesman said.
“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.”
A report by the Mental Welfare Commission raised legal concerns last week about the decision taken to move some patients from hospitals to care homes in Scotland at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, the Crown Office set up the Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team (CDIT) to gather information on the circumstances of all deaths in care homes.
The BBC has previously published care home death data obtained from the Crown Office unit.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie 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% 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.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the figures suggested that in large urban areas, more than one in 10 care home residents tragically died.
“There is no possible situation where that is an acceptable death toll and my thoughts go out to all of the families affected. This has been a colossal failure on the part of those in power.
“There have been many roadblocks on the path to understanding what went wrong in Scotland’s care homes.
“It’s time to press ahead with a Scottish Covid inquiry and give families and care home residents the reassurance that this tragedy will never be allowed to repeat itself.”