Coronavirus death rates in Scotland’s care homes were more than six times higher in larger facilities over the course of the pandemic, according to a report.
New figures from the Care Inspectorate watchdog show 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 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.
A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: “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.
“The Care Inspectorate has worked closely with care providers, the Scottish Government and partners to support care services to respond to and recover from the pandemic, and continues to do so.”
The report also shows care homes for older people provided by the private sector had a higher rate of recording at least one coronavirus death.
It found 60.8% reported at least one such fatality in private premises, compared with 57.1% of care homes provided by the voluntary sector and 50.8% by the public sector.
Care homes located in the most populated areas had higher rates of Covid-related deaths than those in the most remote areas, according to the statistics.
This was at a rate of 11.6 per 100 places in large urban areas compared with 3.7 per 100 places in remote small towns.
A comparison of quality of each care home prior to the pandemic with rates of Covid-related deaths showed no clear relationship in the findings.
There were similar rates of fatalities in those previously rated very good or excellent, adequate or good and weak or unsatisfactory.
The spokesman added: “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.”
It comes after NRS, an agency of the Scottish Government responsible for recording deaths, was found to have withheld the number of confirmed and suspected Covid-related deaths in each of Scotland’s care homes.
The Scottish Government agency breached freedom of information (FoI) legislation by not releasing the figures and used a range of spurious and irrelevant excuses to try and justify its refusal to an FoI request, the Information Commissioner found.
One of the excuses made by the Registrar General – the role held by NRS chief executive Tim Ellis – was that releasing the statistics would be a breach of data protection law.
However, this reason was eventually withdrawn because the legislation can only apply to people who are still alive.
The NRS released figures on Wednesday which show the number of such fatalities between March 16 2020 and May 23 2021.
There were 3,317 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes over that period, with Erskine Home in Bishopton, Glasgow, recording the most at 34.
Guthrie House Care Home in Edinburgh recorded 27 such deaths, while Hillview Court Care Centre in Sauchie, Clackmannanshire, and Whitehills Care Home in East Kilbride both had 25.
Newcarron Court Nursing Centre in Falkirk recorded 24.
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