A major charity says an “extremely concerning” steep rise in excess deaths from dementia, diabetes and other non-COVID conditions during lockdown must be investigated.
Age Scotland is calling for an investigation to identify whether the removal of social care packages or reduced access to medical care contributed to the increase in excess deaths.
At the end of March, care bosses in the Highlands said the “extraordinary” circumstances brought about by COVID-19 could mean as many as 6,000 residents would see their support packages cut and family members asked to step in to provide care.
Similarly in Glasgow, the local authority announced it would only provide ‘life and limb’ social care in people’s homes, leaving many without help to prepare meals or wash and dress.
From April to June this year, there were 340 more deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than the average for the last five years, 25% more than normal.
During that time, diabetes deaths increased by 26% and deaths from diseases of the genital area and urinary system rose by 22.5%.
Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “These figures are extremely concerning, and there is a clear need for further investigation.
“Not only have older people borne the brunt of the health impact from coronavirus, but they have also been at greater risk of death from other causes, such as dementia and diabetes.
“While it’s hard to speculate on the reasons, it’s likely there is a link to the pandemic. We know that health and social services were under a huge strain during these months, and many people were reluctant or unable to seek medical assistance.
“We’re also very concerned that the wholesale removal of social care packages for recipients across Scotland in late March could have had a significant impact on many people’s health and well-being.”
Deaths from other diseases including cancer rose only slightly – 1.5% – compared to dementia and diabetes deaths, but Mr Sloan warns those figures may “only be the tip of the iceberg” due to missed screening appointments and delayed referrals.
He said: “We urgently need to look at the reasons for these excess deaths and ensure that every person is able to access the health and social care they need. As we go into winter, we need to ensure that the NHS and social care providers have the resources and support they need.”