Covid sparked 10% increase in rate of avoidable deaths in Scotland in 2020, report finds

Some 63,000 deaths in Scotland in 2020 were considered avoidable, a new report from National Records of Scotland (NRS) has found.

The rate of avoidable deaths increased for the first time in two decades, rising 9 per cent to 336 per 100,000 people.

NRS said this increase was mostly due to Covid-19.

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Before this the rate had fallen steadily, from 450 in 2001 to 308 in 2019.

Staff at University Hospital Monklands attend to a Covid-positive patient on the ICU ward on February 5, 2021 in Airdrie, Scotland. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Avoidable deaths are defined as those that could be prevented by healthcare and public health interventions.

Cancer and circulatory diseases were the most common of these, accounting for 29 per cent and 25 per cent of all avoidable deaths respectively.

Alcohol and drug-related avoidable deaths increased for the ninth year in a row, to 52 per 100,000 people.

Scotland had the highest avoidable death rate in Britain, compared to 257 per 100,000 in England and 287 in Wales.

After adjusting for age, rates in the most deprived areas were nearly four times higher than those in the least deprived areas.

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The rate was also 1.7 times higher in men, after adjusting for age.

Julie Ramsay, head of vital events statistics at NRS, said: “The avoidable mortality rate in Scotland fell between 2003 and 2014, but remained fairly stable from then until 2019. The inclusion of Covid-19 as an avoidable cause of death has contributed to the increased rate of avoidable mortality seen in 2020.

“Avoidable alcohol and drug-related deaths continued to increase, but there were fewer avoidable deaths from cancers and respiratory illnesses than in previous years.”

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