Last reviewed 20 April 2021

Data released to BBC Scotland by the Crown Office unit, set up to gather information on the circumstances of all Covid-19 deaths in care homes, have revealed which care homes and operators have been worst hit by the virus.

The Crown Office data is part of wider investigation to determine if the deaths should be the subject of a fatal accident inquiry or prosecution. Released under freedom of information laws, they show every Covid-linked death by individual care home in Scotland.

There were more than 10,000 Covid-related deaths in Scotland, with about a third having occurred in care homes. An interactive dashboard available in the BBC article, here, enables people to view the care homes with reported Covid-19 deaths by council area, filter the affected care homes by operator, and see contextual information such as historical complaints.

Data showed some individual facilities accounted for a significant proportion of a council area's Covid-linked care home deaths. The BBC highlighted the example of HC-One's Orchard Care Centre in Clackmannanshire, where the 21 Covid-linked deaths accounted for 19% of that council area's total fatalities, at 110, for all residents.

The BBC said the larger providers, operating more homes often with more beds, reported larger numbers of deaths. But BBC analysis of the data when averaging out the fatality count across the number of facilities operated showed death rates in the bigger operators fell; death rates appeared higher on average in homes where the provider owned one facility rather than a chain.

The worst affected homes were located in parts of Scotland that had high transmission rates of the virus during the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the full picture of how many Covid-linked deaths there have been in each Scottish care home was unclear, as there is no statutory obligation for homes to notify residents, or their families, of an outbreak or deaths.

Some operators did release details but others, both public and private, chose not to. The Scottish care sector regulator, the Care Inspectorate, also refused to release a breakdown, citing the “significant impact” on the commercial prospects of the operators if it did so.

The Crown Office set up the Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team (CDIT) in May 2020 to gather information on the circumstances of all deaths in care homes. All Covid-linked deaths of care home residents have since been reported to CDIT but it is also considering reports of deaths prior to this date.

The figures released to BBC Scotland showed the CDIT was considering 3202 reports of confirmed and presumed Covid deaths as at 8 April 2021. Data for a further 198 care homes showed between one and five Covid-19 deaths were recorded but the exact number has not been revealed.

On 18 April 2021, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a UK-wide public inquiry into the pandemic by the end of the year, saying she would move ahead with a Scottish-only probe if that could not be agreed in good time. She said, with the benefit of hindsight, mistakes were made with care home residents at the start of the crisis.