Coronavirus care home deaths clouded by 'secrecy' claim

Secrecy over the exact location of coronavirus deaths in Scotland’s care homes must be overturned and the information released by the government, it was claimed today.
Concern is growing about "secrecy" surrounding care home deaths.Concern is growing about "secrecy" surrounding care home deaths.
Concern is growing about "secrecy" surrounding care home deaths.

A BBC data investigation found that the majority of care providers in Scotland, including council-run homes, have refused to release information about the numbers of deaths, while the Care Inspectorate has said it won't reveal the information for “commercial” reasons.

Scottish Labour's health and social care Monica Lennon has now challenged Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to publish the data.

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Care homes have accounted for more than half of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland since the start of the pandemic, but a lack of detailed information has made it impossible to map all the deaths to specific care homes or care providers.

Ms Lennon also revealed her own attempts to obtain more detailed data on local breakdowns from National Records of Scotland and the Care Inspectorate had been blocked.

She said: “The continued refusal to provide details on the level of the virus and the number of deaths at a care provider and care home level means that families continue to be left in the dark.

“The enforced separation from their family members in recent months has been heart-breaking, and many people have told me of their anguish about a lack of clear information regarding what is happening to their relatives.

“The least that should be provided is clear information about the prevalence of the virus and the suspected death rates in each care home. Withholding this information across the board as a blanket policy is completely unacceptable, and it should be made public.

“Fears over this secrecy only highlights the wider concerns about accountability in care and the need for a national care service. The Health Secretary could end the secrecy today by releasing the data on care home deaths. The Scottish Government must do the right thing and publish the data, out of respect for grieving families and to avoid repeating decisions that risk lives.”

The Care Inspectorate told the BBC that it would not disclose the data via a freedom of information request, as infections and death numbers “may not necessarily be related to a service's quality of care, hygiene standards, and use of PPE."

It added: "To release information, even at provider level, could have significant impact on the ability of the provider, and consequently their services, to function commercially in already challenging economic circumstances. Releasing information at this level would also likely impact on their ability to engage new staff and/or attract new residents."

The Scottish Government has been contacted for a response.

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