More than 70 die in Edinburgh care homes due to coronavirus

Nearly 30 care homes have seen a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus.

By Conor Matchett
Friday, 24th April 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Friday, 24th April 2020, 9:29 am
74 of Edinburgh's care home residents have died due to coronavirus
74 of Edinburgh's care home residents have died due to coronavirus

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has killed 74 care home residents since the virus took hold of the globe earlier this year, the Evening News can reveal.

The confirmation of the number of tragic deaths comes just days after 13 elderly people were reported to have died due to the coronavirus in Guthrie House Care Home in Liberton.

An internal briefing note to Edinburgh City Council councillors written by the chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP), Judith Proctor, and seen by the Evening News, lays bare the devastating impact of the pandemic on care home residents and, by extension, their loved ones.

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Since the beginning of the virus outbreak in March, care homes have been hit with 74 deaths in total which are confirmed to have been linked to COVID-19.

The figures, which are accurate as of Tuesday April 21, also state that there have been 107 cases of the virus in Edinburgh care homes where people have survived or currently have symptoms, and 91 possible cases which have yet to be tested.

It means just over six per cent of all of the Lothian’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have affected care home patients in Edinburgh alone, with that number rising to 12 per cent if suspected cases are factored in.

A total of 29 care or nursing homes in Edinburgh have seen at least one confirmed positive or suspected case of coronavirus, the briefing note adds.

The briefing note added that each care home in the city will undergo a risk assessment by Public Health in Scotland officials today [Friday 24] and also outlines the challenges in staffing facing the EHSCP during the pandemic.

Ms Proctor writes: “Workforce resilience sits with the care home provider.

“However, the increase in staff self-isolating or COVID-19 positive may place unprecedented strain on workforce numbers.

“Staff working in care homes, often supported by District Nurses, are skilled at delivering high quality palliative and end of life care.

“However, it is recognised that the trauma of multiple residents dying in a short period of time while staff are worried about their own and their family’s health puts an additional burden of distress on those delivering care.”

It adds that staff testing has been extended to social and external care providers while care homes which are in critical need of staff are being prioritised.

Two care homes are also revealed to have suffered PPE shortages over the Easter weekend which were sorted through the EHSCP.

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South said the statistics were “heart-breaking” and called on the Scottish Government to increase testing.

He said: “Behind every number is a family in mourning which has lost a loved one to this invisible killer.

“The emotional toll on care home workers is also intense, and I have written to Guthrie House Care Home to offer my condolences to everyone there.

“These devastating figures will increase concerns among families across Edinburgh who are worried about loved ones living in care homes.

“It’s clear that nowhere near enough tests have been carried out, and that personal protective equipment is still not reaching the front line. This deepening scandal must be urgently addressed by the Scottish Government.”

Miles Briggs, the Conservative health spokesman and Lothian MSP, said it was crucial staff in care homes have access to PPE to keep them and residents safe.

He said: “My deepest condolences are with the families and loved ones of care home residents who have died from Covid-19.

“Care home residents are at very high risk to coronavirus and everything possible must be done to keep them safe.

“Staff in care homes must have access to appropriate PPE and be fully trained in infection control to enhance shielding of vulnerable residents.

“Edinburgh and the Lothian’s have a higher proportion of Covid-19 deaths in care homes than other parts of Scotland and immediate actions must be taken to protect residents.

“It is vital that SNP Ministers provide ongoing support to the care sector to help provide the resources needed for both PPE and testing.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “There revelation that 74 people have died in care homes in Edinburgh so far will come as a shock to many families. It’s why my Green MSP colleague Alison Johnstone has repeatedly called for everything possible to be done to ensure that protective equipment is fully available in care homes and in use at all times and to make sure that all other steps are taken to protect these most vulnerable citizens.

“I know staff in care homes are performing heroically at the moment. They are facing unimaginable stress in an already difficult job. It is so important that testing and tracing is stepped up so that staff and residents can feel confident and supported in the work they are doing.”

Danny Phillips of UNISON Scotland said the union will call for a ‘root and branch’ of the care system in Scotland.

He said: “Our hearts go out to every family effected by this virus. Behind every awful statistic is a person and a family. It’s something health and care staff know only too well, as they care for some for the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh.

“We must also not forget the health and care workforce. This virus has shown us the incredible bravery and compassion of some of the lowest paid workers in the country.

“We must never forget the crucial role care workers have played in this national emergency and the least they can expect is to be properly protected at their work. After this pandemic we will be calling for have root and branch reform of our broken care system.”

A spokesperson from the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those who have sadly passed away and we know this is a very anxious time for everyone.

“Our priority is always the safety of residents and staff in care homes. Whilst we are doing our best to keep care home life as normal as possible for residents, we are carefully following national guidance, which includes testing – as laid out by Health Protection Scotland – and have robust processes and procedures in place to limit the spread of the virus and to protect our residents and staff.

“Public Health in Scotland have been given a lead role in supporting the wider plan for care homes and we continue to work closely with them.

“We have arrangements for access to PPE across Partnership care homes and staff are being equipped with the appropriate PPE, as outlined in the national guidance.

“Despite the challenges the virus has presented, our staff continue to work tirelessly to support our residents and these efforts are mirrored across every care home in Edinburgh.

“Residents in our care homes also continue to be looked after by their regular GP practice as established relationships are in place.”

A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: "Care services across Scotland are working tirelessly under very challenging circumstances to care for people.

"The Care Inspectorate is working closely with care providers, health and social care partnerships, care industry leaders and the Scottish Government to ensure services get the support they need during the pandemic.

“Part of that work includes asking services to notify us of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. The purpose of these notifications is to enable us and our partners to direct help and support where it is needed.

“We share the general data from these notifications with Scottish Government who are the primary publishers of data related to COVID-19 during the pandemic.

"We understand this is a really worrying time for people who experience care, their loved ones and families and for those who work in care.

"Our thoughts are with all those affected."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those affected in all of the outbreaks in care homes as well as the staff and wider community.

“Local health protection teams are responsible for the management of outbreaks in care homes, including any decisions about testing.

“Last week, the First Minister announced Scotland was moving to a system where any symptomatic patient in a care home will be tested for Covid-19. This builds on existing infection management procedures where initial suspected cases would be tested to establish whether an outbreak has occurred.“As the Health Secretary set out the parliament this week, Covid-19 patients discharged from hospital to a care home are also required to give two negative tests before discharge, with new admissions to care homes tested and isolated for 14 days in addition to the clear physical distancing measures the guidance sets out.“For the first time NHS Directors of Public Health are now required to take enhanced clinical leadership for care homes, meaning they must report on their initial assessment of how each home is faring in terms of infection control, staffing, training, physical distancing and testing.“Meantime we continue to work closely with Boards to ensure that social care staff are given priority testing, following the Health Secretary writing to Boards on 9 April asking them to review local processes and pathways in place to enable public and private sector social care staff to access testing.”