Data obtained from the Scottish Care Inspectorate by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and passed to The Ferret, shows that deaths of people getting social care support at home increased 71 per cent between 2019 and 2020, when Scotland was in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
Campaigners said that while deaths in care homes had rightly been at the forefront of people’s minds, high death rates of those cared for in the community – including older and disabled people – had been forgotten.
Figures, which include only deaths logged with the inspectorate by care providers, show that between April 2020 and March 2021, 2,977 people died, a significant increase on the previous 12 months when 1,744 died.
Of those deaths, between 336 and 351 are recorded as having died with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19. This is around 12 per cent of the total number of deaths.
No exact figures could be calculated because records showed some months as having only “less than five deaths”.
While the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 are likely to be an underestimate, leading social care campaigners said the figures highlighted the need for urgent scrutiny of the reasons that vulnerable people, dependant on social care, had died.
Other data obtained by the The Bureau revealed the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on people receiving care at home across the UK.
Analysis of English data showed deaths of adults receiving home care increased by 49 per cent from 2019 to at least 25,000 deaths in April 2020-March 2021.
In ten English local authority areas the official count of these deaths more than tripled during the pandemic year.
Scottish campaigners said there were likely to be multiple factors behind the deaths. Those include, they said, cuts to care and other support and treatment packages – often made with little notice as reported by The Ferret last March – leaving people “abandoned” at a time of crisis.
Meanwhile some families and individuals opted out of care because carers, who were moving from home-to-home, were not provided with full PPE or testing.
Others who continued to receive visits from home carers, may have been put at risk of contracting Covid-19, it has been claimed.
In March 2021 figures released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed that 4,333 of those who died of coronavirus between March 2020 and January 2021 were disabled people – six out of ten of the total number of deaths.
Disabled people and charities supporting them told The Ferret the threat of Do Not Resuscitate orders being placed on them if they contracted Covid-19, meant they were afraid of going to hospital, or other health services, for treatment connected with other underlying conditions.
Some pointed to the mental distress caused by isolation, an absence of pain management and therapeutic treatment or mental health support.
Disability charity Inclusion Scotland said five people reported suicidal thoughts in a survey last April, even though the survey did not seek views on this topic.
Donald Macaskill, chief executive of membership organisation Scottish Care, pictured right, said: “Undeniably there have been more people dying in the community. The question is could we have done more to support them. And I think we could have.
“Care homes were rightly at the front of our minds. But out of sight and mind were the people isolated in their own homes, especially those who didn’t have family.
“An inquiry is needed not just to look at the impact on care homes but to look at the impact in the community.”
Fit and healthy – doctor put 78-year-old granny Margaret Gourlay on the controversial “do not resuscitate” list without consultation at Crosslet Care Home in Dumbarton. Top picture: The late Catherine Sweeney, who died while working as a home care worker in Dumbarton.
A report of the full investifation is on The Ferret website now.