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CMO comments on winter mortality in Scotland 2014-15

Published: 20 Oct 2015 10:24
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Figures on mortality rates published.

Figures published today by the National Records of Scotland show that between December 2014 and March 2015 there were 22,011 registered deaths. This is an increase in winter mortality of 3336 when compared to 2013-14, which had the lowest number of winter deaths since recording began more than 60 years ago.

Commenting on today's figures, Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood said:

"Today's figures show that last winter was challenging one with deaths being caused by a number of conditions including respiratory and circulatory diseases.

"We have also heard from NHS health boards of more, sicker, patients arriving at hospital, which possibly reflects the growing number of elderly people living in Scotland with multiple health problems.

"Winter mortality figures can fluctuate from year to year, with this year's figure coming after a year when winter deaths were particularly low. It is reassuring that over a five-year period the seasonal increase in mortality in winter is at its second lowest level ever since records began.

"In addition, the latest hospital mortality figures, published earlier this year, show a drop of more than 15 per cent since recording began in 2007.

"While in many cases of winter mortality influenza will not be the main cause of death, it can aggravate underlying long-term conditions, which may have had a significant impact on the sick and elderly last winter.

"This is why it is crucial that those with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant or are older than 65 receive their free flu vaccination. The vaccination offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus which can lead to serious complications and potentially hospital treatment.

"While the number of winter deaths is the total that occur throughout the community and are not specifically related to healthcare, it is crucial our NHS prepares thoroughly for the extra pressures winter clearly brings. This is why our winter guidance for health boards was issued two months earlier this year compared to previous years, and additional investment of £10.7 million will help ease pressure. This brings total investment by the Scottish Government for winter resilience to around £55 million this year."