BLOG SERIES - Dramatic increase in deaths at home during the pandemic

This month, Jan Savinc, focuses on the increase of 'deaths at home' since the beginning of the pandemic, using data for the entirety of 2020 as well as 2021 as new data are released. 


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 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.

We will post a regular blog at the start of each month, which will demonstrate what changes (if any) there are for Deaths at Home in 2020/21, as opposed to the historical data (collated from 2015-2019).

What the data analysis shows

The number of deaths recorded at home (or other non-institutions) over time is illustrated in the above figure, with 2021 figures near the end of the graph at the far right. The red line shows deaths from any cause, with the blue line showing non Covid-19 related deaths: the gap between the two lines represents deaths related to Covid-19 with the overall picture showing few such deaths at home.

Home deaths increased rapidly from week 12 (end of March) and have remained high relative to the historic maximum for the rest of 2020 with even the lowest number in week 39 (mid-September) comparable to the maximum of the 2015-2019 period (shown by the greyish blue).

Death total for period up to 15 Feb 2021

The total number of all deaths at home is 24,183 which have occurred since the start of 2020 to week 7 (w/c 15th February) in 2021, 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.

A draft of our policy briefing is here.

Further coverage by Evening Standard - March 2021 and BBC News - April 2021.

We were extremely grateful to David and Colin for their earlier work, which were of massive help when analysing these data! They can be contacted:

- David Henderson: Github and Twitter and Colin Angus: Github and Twitter 

This article was published on 01 Mar 2021


Jan Savinc