The number of care home residents succumbing to the coronavirus is expected to increase further, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
The latest figures released by National Records Scotland show 33% of the country’s coronavirus deaths happened in care homes, up from 25% last week.
In the North East, this figure stood at 40%, the highest in Scotland.
The first minister said she had read reports that suggested between 40-50% of deaths from the virus had taken place in care homes and that Scotland could soon project similar figures.
Interim chief medical officer Gregor Smith said on average around 24% of deaths in Scotland occurred in care homes in a normal year.
Priority to reduce avoidable deaths
Asked if the country should be braced in the near future for the number of care home deaths to increase, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am not at any point going to accept a certain level of deaths as inevitable.
“Our priority and our objective in everything we’re doing right now is to reduce as far as we can avoidable deaths.
“People die and older people obviously in care homes and we see people dying outwith this crisis period but we don’t accept any level of deaths from coronavirus as inevitable and I want to stress that point.
“That said we are still in the grip of this pandemic and I certainly couldn’t stand here and say that we’re not going to see these death numbers increase further.
“I think unfortunately, sadly, the expectation is that we will but saying that does not detract at all from our determination and everything we’re doing in care homes and elsewhere to reduce the numbers of deaths as quickly as possible; and outwith the care home context, where there are particular issues, we’ve got to address the indicators around hospital admissions and intensive care admissions… suggests that, as I said, outwith care homes we will start to see that number reduced over the next couple of weeks and that’s what we’ve got to remain focused on.”
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “Today’s figures again show the devastating impact this virus is having on the most vulnerable in our communities, with a third of all deaths involving Covid-19 occurring in care homes.
“Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and the staff who have cared for them.
“The steps outlined by the cabinet secretary yesterday should provide additional support to Scotland’s care homes but staff on the ground need to be assured that they will be given the resources and equipment they need, when they need it.
“The RCN has been speaking out on behalf of care home staff and residents and will continue to do so.”
PPE provision should still be priority
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The shocking scale of these figures should remind us of the crucial role care homes are playing in this fight.
“We cannot afford for the staff or residents of these facilities to feel they are playing second fiddle to hospitals.
“All over Scotland families with loved ones in these facilities, or working in them, will be terrified for the immediate future.
“We need the Scottish Government to do all it can to ensure care homes are supported in accessing the PPE they need and being able to test their staff and residents.”
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