Calls to investigate steep rise in winter deaths in Scotland

Deaths in January 2018 were at a record high for any month since 2000. Picture: Michael Gillen
Deaths in January 2018 were at a record high for any month since 2000. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Opposition MSPs are calling for an investigation into the biggest rise in winter deaths this century.

The number of deaths in January this year was the highest in any month since January 2000, and the second highest recorded in 28 years.

Official figures showed that 7,552 deaths were registered in Scotland in January, 1,909 more than the same month last year and 2,018 more than the average number of deaths in January over the past five years.

“The simple fact is that the SNP-run health service is failing patients,” Tory MSP Miles Briggs told The Times.

“I would welcome an inquiry into why deaths have suddenly increased but ultimately the figures speak for themselves: SNP mismanagement has singularly failed to improve health outcomes.”

Experts have suggested the rise in winter deaths could not be attributed solely to flu or the ageing population, with the Scottish Government waiting on a report analysis the role of the former.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Flu was an issue at the turn of the year but we also know that ... there are staff shortages across health and social care and services are stretched.”

Health secretary Shona Robison stressed that mortality rates fluctuated from year to year.

She said: “We have seen improvements in deaths related to heart disease while the number of people with dementia, multiple morbidity and complex care needs rises as our population ages.”

“That is why we are leading the way in the UK with innovative public health policies such as minimum unit pricing, and why we have embarked upon the biggest programme of transformational change our NHS has ever seen. Mortality data is one of the measures we use to continue to inform our approach.”