New data has revealed the true extent of care home deaths linked to Covid-19 for the first time in the pandemic.
Data obtained by the BBC from the Crown Office shows the number of deaths in each care home in Scotland.
A special unit, the Crown Office Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team (CDIT), was set up to investigate the circumstances of deaths linked to the virus in care homes, and the data offers a comprehensive area-by-area breakdown.
Data from March last year up to April 8 shows the worst-hit care homes across Scotland, including in Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perth.
Across those council areas, 222 deaths linked to coronavirus were recorded in the last year.
In Fife, the worst-hit care home was the 40-bed Lomond Court, operated by HC-One, where 19 deaths were recorded by the Crown Office.
South Grange care home in Monifieth, Angus, operated by Barchester Care Home, recorded 15 deaths.
Other badly hit care homes include:
- West Park Nursing Home in Leslie, Fife, where 12 residents’ deaths were linked to the virus
- Bridge View House Care Home and Lochleven Care Home, Dundee, with both recording 13 deaths.
The data includes deaths where the virus was either confirmed through a test or suspected to have contributed to a person’s death.
It also suggests care homes operated by large providers experienced a greater number of deaths.
In January The Courier reported on one death at Craigieknowes Care Home in Perth, whilst new data showed the true figure stood at 11.
More than 10,000 deaths in Scotland in the last year have been recorded where Covid-19 was suspected or confirmed, around a third of which have occurred in care homes.
Crown Office data has so far linked 3,400 deaths to the virus across Scotland, whilst data from the National Records of Scotland had previously reported 3,292 deaths.
The Crown Office unit [CDIT] has been gathering the data to investigate whether the deaths should be subject to a Fatal Accident Inquiry, and potentially even a prosecution.
A spokesperson for the Crown Office said: “CDIT is working together with other agencies including the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities and the Care Inspectorate to ensure that appropriate investigations are undertaken in relation to these deaths.
“These arrangements will ensure that the circumstances of each death can be fully considered by this dedicated team, and appropriate decisions made about any further investigation required, whether criminal or non-criminal.”
More than 1,300 people were discharged from hospital into care homes before testing was introduced, something Nicola Sturgeon said was a ‘mistake’.
It comes after health secretary Jeane Freeman said that whilst the discharges were done to save lives, the government failed to properly understand the needs of the sector.
A spokesman for industry body Scottish Care told the BBC that the data “demonstrates the terrible toll” which has been felt by residents, families and care home workers throughout the pandemic.
He added: “We have heard in recent days acknowledgement that ‘mistakes’ were made in ensuring that care homes were as ready as they could be to receive the hundreds of people who were discharged from NHS hospitals.
“We very much regret that insufficient attention was given to the needs of the care sector when compared to the preparation given to and focus upon the NHS.
“Social care as a whole was let down in the early stages of the pandemic, not least by the failures to introduce testing of staff and residents earlier.”
Opposition parties have suggested the new data shows the SNP government “catastrophically failed” to keep care homes safe.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the data was consistent with an earlier Public Health Scotland report which “did not find statistical evidence that hospital discharges of any kind were associated with care home outbreaks”.
They added: “We mourn every death from Covid-19 and express our sympathy for all those who have lost loved ones, and for the distress and grief experienced by individuals and their families.
“As the First Minister and Health Secretary have previously said the Scottish government will continue to learn lessons from the Covid-pandemic and, subject to the outcome of the election, intends to have a full public inquiry which considers all aspects of how the pandemic has been handled, including the impact on care homes and their residents.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader and health and social care spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This damning report has revealed the appalling damage done by the virus in Scotland’s care homes, and our thoughts are with all those who have lost a loved one.
This tragedy must never be repeated and those responsible for it must be held to account.”
“The SNP catastrophically failed to keep our care homes safe and thousands of people have now paid the price of their decision.
“It is unacceptable and offensive for the First Minister to claim that there was no alternative to the actions of her government.
“At too many times in this crisis, the First Minister has had her eye off the ball.
“This tragedy must never be repeated and those responsible for it must be held to account.”
Nicola Sturgeon said the data showed too many had died in care homes as she urged to rest of the UK to back her call for a public inquiry into the pandemic this year.
She said there should be a judge-led inquiry, with her preference being for a UK-wide exercise to examine each devolved government’s approach.
She added: “I can’t force other governments to agree to it, so if we can’t get that agreement in good time I will move ahead with a Scottish-only public inquiry”.
How the care homes responded
Responding to the figures, HC-One, one of the worst affected operators, said it held different figures to those obtained from the Crown Office.
HC-One was one a few providers to proactively release data on infections and deaths throughout the pandemic.
A spokesperson added: “We have worked tirelessly to protect our residents and colleagues, and took steps to lead on transparency throughout the pandemic.
“When little was known about the virus, HC-One published daily case numbers and death figures for its Scottish homes, and engaged at length and in detail with health and care officials, our families, and the media.”
Another operator, Barchester, said the “teams within our homes have very high standards, and they are continuing to work tirelessly and relentlessly to do all they can to keep residents and staff safe from the virulent disease that is Covid-19”.
A spokeswoman for the Four Seasons Health Care Group told the BBC that coronavirus “quickly created immense challenges for all health and social care providers and while we acted immediately to protect everyone in our homes, it took time for the healthcare community to fully understand the characteristics of the spread of this infection”.
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