Lockdown Scotland: 40% spike in number of deaths at home during pandemic, according to Marie Curie

The pandemic led to a sharp spike in the number of people dying at home in the past year, with a leading charity expressing “extreme worry” terminally ill people may have missed out on vital care.

The pandemic led to a sharp spike in the number of people dying at home in the past year (Photo: Joe Giddens).

Marie Curie said its health teams looked after more than 9,000 dying Scots throughout 2020-21 – the highest number since it was established in 1948.

The charity, named after the pioneering scientist, has two hospices, one in Edinburgh and the other in Glasgow, but there was a jump in demand for services in people's homes this year, it said.

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With hospital admissions for non-Covid patients reduced, there were around 6,000 more deaths at home in Scotland, a 40% rise on the previous year, the charity said.

Overall, more than 63,000 people died in Scotland throughout 2020-21, the vast majority of whom required some palliative care, it added.

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Palliative care is a medical approach which makes the terminally ill as comfortable as possible in their final months and weeks of life by optimising quality of life.

Marie Curie Scotland policy chief Richard Meade said staff have "worked tirelessly to ensure as many people as possible had an end of life experience which reflected what was most important to them".

But he said it was "extremely worrying" that some people may have missed out on care and support.

Mr Meade said: "With such an increase in the number of people dying at home during the pandemic, and despite the best efforts of health and social care teams, we are concerned that many people may not have received some or all of the care and support they needed in their final hours, days, weeks and months of life.

"This is extremely worrying."

Mr Meade called for the Scottish Government's inquiry into the handling of the pandemic to scrutinise care of the terminally ill at home to help ensure "all end of life experiences are dignified and compassionate".

Mr Meade warned that by 2040 more than two-thirds of over-85s are likely to die in the community, and the number of dying people who will need palliative care will rise to more than 62,000 per year.

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