We note the publication of data relating to care home deaths by both the Care Inspectorate and by National Records Scotland.
This data demonstrates the terrible toll taken by Coronavirus upon those who live, visit loved ones, and work in care homes.
Hundreds of people died during the early stages of the pandemic when a lot less was known about the virus than is known now. We have heard from the Scottish Government, acknowledgment that ‘mistakes’ were made in ensuring that care homes were as ready as they could be to receive the hundreds of people who were discharged from NHS hospitals.
We very much regret that due care and attention was not paid in sufficient depth to the needs of the care sector when compared to the preparation given to and focus upon the NHS. Social care as a whole was let down in the early stages of the pandemic, not least by the failures to introduce testing of staff and residents at an earlier stage.
We are also aware of the extent to which we now know a lot more about the risk of asymptomatic spread of the virus, the risk of airborne infection and the importance of using additional PPE in order to protect staff and residents.
It is testimony to the lessons learned and the improvements in practice that have occurred since the first wave that the second wave resulted in so many fewer deaths.
Nevertheless, as was the case in early March 2020 and is still the case today even with vaccination protection, it is a fact that the most vulnerable, the very frail and old, in other words the population of our care homes, were and are at the greatest risk of Covid-19.
The numbers published today do not describe the sad reality that those living in group and congregated settings such as care homes have been disproportionately affected across the world. They do not describe the reality that those who have suffered the most and who have died across the world are those who are very old and frail, and those living with multiple co-morbidities.
The published data indicates more detail on geographical location and spread, the size of the care home, the home operator and the quality of the care home. What it shows is that there are very few lessons which can be drawn from the data in terms of virus impact other than perhaps the size of the care home increasing the risk of infection, the lack of testing and knowledge of asymptomatic spread. Indeed, size of home is an uncertain determinant because larger homes are almost always ones which support those with advanced needs, greater acuity and frailty, and have as a result a more vulnerable and at-risk population. This virus has hit hard against all types of operators, whether public, private or charitable.
There have been too many lives which have been cut short before their time by a deadly virus. Behind each number is an individual who is loved and greatly missed by family and friends. Their loss is felt also by care home staff who have cared for and supported them for many months and years.
The numbers of deaths tell part of the story but what they certainly do not tell of is the amazing professionalism, sacrifice and dedication of frontline nursing and care staff who daily put themselves at risk and on the line to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens facing the threat of this deadly global virus.
As we consider the numbers and reflect on this data, we remember all the lives lost and the dedication of those who worked to save life. As we consider the numbers, we would ask everyone to reach out to support the care homes, staff, residents and families affected and to do so with compassion and solidarity.
It is our earnest hope that the use of this data by commentators, media and politicians will be sensitive and respectful. Lessons have been and will continue to be learned about the impact of this virus on our care homes, but in so doing we must all of us seek to support the women and men who continue to be residents, their families and those who work in our care homes.