Too early to understand the exact impact Covid-19 has had on excess deaths in Scotland, says Holyrood Committee
29 April 2022
However the Committee has called on the Scottish Government to set out how it plans to improve and enhance its data collection, so we can fully understand the pandemic’s impact on mortality in the coming years.
The Committee says that short-term fluctuations in deaths and the complexity of separating deaths caused by COVID from those where COVID may have contributed or been coincidental, mean that more time is needed to gauge the pandemic’s full impact on mortality in Scotland.
The inquiry, which aimed to examine the extent to which excess deaths were caused by the COVID-19 caseload or the indirect impacts of the pandemic, raised a number of complex issues in relation to data collection, monitoring and surveillance.
Evidence received by the Committee highlighted the need for improved data collection in primary care and included concerning evidence that non-COVID-19 patients are now presenting in a more acute condition.
The Committee also heard that the impact of the pandemic was greater on those from deprived areas and that this could have an impact on excess deaths in those areas.
Committee Convener, Siobhian Brown MSP, said;
“Our inquiry has highlighted the critical need for improved data collection by the Scottish Government if we are to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on excess deaths in Scotland.
“Although it is too early to analyse the full extent of the pandemic on excess deaths at this point, and we recognise the complexity of this work, it is critical that steps are taken now so that a thorough and detailed analysis of the pandemic’s impact on excess deaths can be made in years to come.
“We are very aware that the statistics provided to us during the inquiry are not abstract numbers. Each of these represent the end of life for real people, and we are very cognisant of that.”
The Committee also asks the Scottish Government to set out how best to promote and encourage use of NHS services for non-covid conditions and how GP services should be delivered in the future. This should explain what role hybrid working will play in primary care to support NHS recovery.
Figures from the National Records of Scotland, as of week beginning 24 Jan 2020, show that based on death certification, there have been 11,817 excess deaths overall in 2020-22, of which 11,218 were either caused by Covid or where Covid was a contributory factor.
The Committee took evidence on the inquiry at its meetings on 24 February 2022, 10 March 2022 and 17 March 2022.