Frankly brainless use of care home deaths statistics by Sun writer unchallenged on GMS

I used to teach 11 year-olds how to do and how to use percentages. It’s not that difficult but if you’re a late middle-aged Sun journalist on with Good Morning Scotland’s less than bright team, it seems to be a problem.

Add in an agenda to find anything, anything, to chuck at Nicola and all pretense of accuracy goes right out of the window and into the Clyde.

This morning, Lynn Davidson of the Sun said:

About the dreadful figures in care homes and the number of deaths which is something like, in England and Wales, 28% of all fatalities, involving coronavirus whereas in Scotland it’s 47%. It’s been really terrible in care homes in Scotland.

If she is serious, she is then seriously challenged.

Those statistics do not, of themselves tell you that things have been worse in Scottish care homes. What matters here is what percentage of all those living in care homes died.

In fact deaths in Scottish care homes were 10% lower than in England and Wakes.

Here’s the evidence:

On July 27th, BBC Scotland drew our attention to this:

Nearly half of Scotland’s 4,193 coronavirus deaths have been linked to care homes.

They went on to tell us:

Data also reveals that since mid-March there have been 2,365 “excess deaths” [all causes] in Scottish care homes as measured against the five-year average.

Their data comes from:

Given the repeated suggestions that the death rate has been higher in Scotland, some reliable figures would be useful.

Earlier in July, BBC UK had published just what BBC Scotland needed, ONS data on excess deaths:

Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019, ONS figures show.

England and Wales has 11 times the population so, all things being equal, the rate there would have been just over 26 000 but it is ‘almost 30 000’. The Scottish rate is 10% lower.

7 thoughts on “Frankly brainless use of care home deaths statistics by Sun writer unchallenged on GMS

  1. The people involved in these broadcasts are professional journalists. Are we to believe they are unaware of the statistical manipulation going on here?

    No, this is propaganda, pure and simple.
    Lies, statistics and BBC Scotland.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The ‘Scottish Sun’, a lowlife nasty rag if ever there was, story tellers paid to lie, can’t be good knowing you are lying to a whole country, (well the few who read their right wing nasty rag) and believe that’s OK, still it’s what they signed up for it seems.

    Interview; ‘do you know how to lie, twist the truth and ignore facts and figures?’. Interviewee; ‘of course!’. They no doubt get the job and a wee bonus if they work hard at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Are there not difficulties in making these comparisons?

    Between weeks 12 and 22, 91% of deaths of care home residents in Scotland took place in the care homes and 9% in hospital. In England, between weeks 12 and 17, 29% of deaths of care home residents took place in hospital.

    In Scotland there have been 616 non-covid-19 “excess deaths” in care homes and 1320 such deaths outside care homes or hospitals.

    In 2017, (the most recent figures available ) long term care was being given in the home to around 47,070 people over 65 in Scotland. there is no information on how many of these people may have died, directly, or indirectly, from covid-19.

    Click to access Deaths-in-Scottish-care-homes-3rd-June-update-2.pdf

    In England and Wales, the ONS counts deaths on the basis of what is said on the death certificate. I remember some discussion of whether these were accurate, particularly in the early days of covid-19. The ONS says this about covid-19 deaths in care homes, England.

    “This shows that there were 66,112 deaths of care home residents (wherever the death occurred) since the start of the pandemic up to 12 June (registered up to 20 June). Of these, 19,394 involved COVID-19, which is 29.3% of all deaths of care home residents. Since mid-April 2020, we have seen a slowdown in both the total number of deaths and deaths involving COVID-19 in care home residents.”

    All other data about covid-19 deaths in England and Wales use positive tests for the virus as the basis of the count. There are differences in the numbers depending on which counting method is used. Positive test deaths exceed the certificate measured deaths consistently by around 30 each day, a total of some 1424 extra deaths. Further the difference in deaths does not seem to arise in hospitals.

    While registered excess deaths in E&W have fallen below the 5 year average for 5 weeks up to 28 July, this is not the case for excess deaths reported in the home. In E&W there have been 3799 such deaths in the 5 weeks up to 28 July. Only 179 of these have covid-19 on the death certificate. This number, 3799, is 50% greater than the total number of deaths,2582, registered in any other setting in the past 5 weeks.

    If, however, you use a different website for information you learn that ONS counting of covid-19 deaths results in significantly greater numbers than the method of NHS England, albeit a different period of calculation is used by the website linked below than that above .

    But then, if you attribute all excess deaths in GB to covid-19 (what grounds are there for that assumption?) and count England and Wales as one and fiddle about when establishing the baseline for counting excess deaths you reach the conclusions that you want.


    1. Sam, You are displaying your customary rigour in this matter and indicating how difficult it is to make comparisons when the statistical data are obtained by different means.

      But, what the media’s purpose is, is to try to ‘debunk’ the strong public approval of the SG, and FM in the management of the crisis. The comparison with the bumbling and mendacious management of Messrs Johnson and Hancock could not be starker. So, the media strategy is to take the Westminster shambles as a given and to try to present the SG/FM performance as ‘no better’. And, by the twisted logic which these people use, “no better’ means that Johnson et al are actually better and so we are Better Together.

      It is all bollocks, of course, but the media continually retell it as fact. They are seeking to stop the drift of former NO voters to being more sympathetic towards independence and the fact that the crisis has shown that Scotland can manage things efficiently.

      It was actually Ms Isabel Fraser who fed the ‘attack lines’ that Mr Douglas Ross would use in the forthcoming Scottish elections by instancing care homes, education and centralisation of government.


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