BLOG SERIES - Dramatic increase in deaths at home during the pandemic - No.2

This month, Jan Savinc, brings us the second blog in his series that analyses the increase in 'deaths at home' since the beginning of the pandemic. 


The data used in this analysis are the weekly updated Deaths involving coronavirus (Covid-19) in Scotland by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) as well as historic weekly deaths for the 2015-2019 period.

The pandemic has placed unprecedented demand on health services, with the increase of home deaths having implications on formal and informal care. This blog series commenced in February 2021, and follows on from research carried out by Iain Atherton in June 2020 on increasing deaths at home and their implications for carers and David Henderson's analysis in April 2020 on changing patterns in location of death during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This month we can map the percentage increase of home deaths, from the start of 2020 to the latest data (w/c 15th March 2021 or week 11), in comparison to the equivalent period during 2015-2019. The next map shows a regional distribution by Scottish Health Boards:















What the data analysis shows

The first thing to note is the figures show that home deaths increased everywhere in Scotland, during the pandemic. The Western Isles and Shetland saw the lowest percent increase, whereas Orkney saw the highest – in the case of Orkney the high percentage increase of 50.1%, is due to the relatively small numbers involved, with the average number of people dying at home per year being 64 between 2015-2019 .

Secondly, the regions on the map of increased home deaths approximately match the number of positive cases in each region so far (per 100,000 people), for example:

  • Western Isles and Shetland Health Boards had the lowest increases in home deaths at 13-14% and also had the lowest COVID cases, approximately 1,000-1,100 per 100,000 people.
  • Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Lanarkshire had some of the highest home death increases at 37-38%, and the highest COVID case counts of approximately 5,600-5,900 per 100,000 people.















Death total for period up to w/c 15 March 2021

As of week 11 or the w/c 15th March 2021, the total number of all deaths at home since the beginning of 2020 was 25,487 which is 36% more than the average number of people who died at home in the equivalent period in 2015-2019. 


What next?

Future blogs in coming weeks will continue to report on this trend and look at how it varies across Scotland.

Questions on the quality of end-of-life care available, as well as what the causes of death may need to be investigated using linked administrative data in the coming months and years.

We have drafted a policy briefing to help focus discussions.


Further Information

Please contact our Health & Social Care research group if you wish to discuss any of the content of this blog.

This article was published on 29 Mar 2021

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Jan Savinc