England ‘under-reporting’ care home deaths, Nicola Sturgeon says

England is “under-reporting” the levels of coronavirus deaths in care homes, Nicola Sturgeon has said as she defended her government’s record on protecting the elderly from the virus outbreak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government's record on care home deaths from coronavirus
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government's record on care home deaths from coronavirus

The First Minister said that figures suggesting Scotland has a higher death toll in care homes were down to more accurate reporting north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon said early advice that coronavirus could not be passed on by asymptomatic carriers contributed to the policy of shifting elderly people out of hospitals and into care homes - but said it was wrong for politicians to seek to pass blame onto scientists.

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Deaths in care homes between mid-March and the end of May were 94% higher than average, and 46% of deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland have taken place in care homes, compared to a figure of 28% in England and Wales.

“Every single death from this virus is a matter of deep personal regret to me. I'm sure I'm not the only leader that says some of these decisions and the implications of what has happened over the past couple of months will live with me for probably the rest of my life,” Ms Sturgeon told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.

“I don't think any level of deaths is acceptable, and it shouldn't be a competition. Excess deaths in Scotland overall, but also in care homes, are lower than in England, but more of them in care homes have been attributed to Covid than is the case in England.

“Slightly more than 70% of excess deaths in Scotland are attributed to Covid whereas for some reason it is less than 50% in England.

“In Scotland if you die of, say a stroke, but you also happen to have the virus, you will be included in the deaths from Covid.

“It's not for me to explain England's figures, but I think here there is, at least on the face of it, a question of underreporting in England.

“I'm confident that Scotland's figures are robust, and the percentage of overall deaths that have sadly and tragically happened in care homes in Scotland is much more in line with some of the figures we see in other countries as well.”

Asked about the Scottish Government’s policy on moving elderly people out of hospitals and into care homes Ms Sturgeon explained that “back then, the view was that people who didn't have symptoms, either because they were presymptomatic or asymptomatic didn't shed the virus.”

She added: “What people like me were advised back then is that the tests weren't reliable in people who didn't have symptoms.”

The First Minister suggested scientific advisers were being scapegoated for policy failings in some media coverage.

“if I was a scientist, I think I might have a little concern that politicians were looking to try to blame me for any mistakes that had been made, and I don't think that would be right to do.

“Politicians like me, it's a tough place to be a time of crisis like this, but we are elected and we are accountable.

“I think it's really really important that we listen to the scientific advice, we try to understand that as much as possible, but ultimately we have to apply your judgement to that and take the decisions.”

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