SOCIAL care workers in Scotland are more than twice as likely to die from Covid as colleagues on the NHS frontline, a report has revealed.

The mortality rate from the virus among healthcare workers is also lower than the average for all working adults aged 20 to 64.

The analysis of deaths by occupation, carried out by National Records of Scotland, show that so far 17 deaths among social care workers have been linked to the coronavirus.

This translates into an age-standardised death rate of 13.6 per 100,000, compared to 5.6 for healthcare workers and an average 9.9 per 100,000 across all occupations.

To date, NRS says there have been 11 Covid-related deaths among NHS staff.

READ MORE: Science has no clear-cut answers to Scotland's physical distancing dilemma 

Hospitals and care homes have accounted for 46 per cent and 47% respectively of all Covid deaths, but shortages of personal protective equipment and limited access to virus testing in care homes at the beginning pandemic led to accusations of social care workers being treated like “canon fodder” and “second class citizens” compared to their NHS colleagues.

The NRS report stresses that these figures are based on the occupations stated on death certificates, however, and it “does not mean that the individuals contracted the virus while at work”.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Care said: “Whilst it is important to note that these statistics do not suggest that these deaths were a direct result of an individual’s occupation or that the virus was contracted at work, they further highlight the need to make work in social care especially during a pandemic as safe as possible.

“This includes supporting social care workers with access to the right PPE, regular testing and other resources and mechanisms through which they are able to look after their health and wellbeing in and out of work.

“Social care cannot be overlooked or forgotten, especially as we move through different stages of this pandemic and attention shifts to other challenges.”

Overall, Covid death rates were highest - at 26 per 100,000 - among those in transport and factory occupations, with 43 deaths.

People working in construction and building trades, with 12 deaths, were on a par with social care staff, at 14 deaths per 100,000, while people in sales occupations - which could include call centres - had one of the highest death rates of 18.5 per 100,000, or 17 deaths.

There were four Covid deaths among people working in retail, but this was too low to extrapolate any age-standardised mortality rate for the sector.

The Scottish Government said it was making virus testing available routinely to all care home staff, had distributed more than 65 million pieces of PPE to social care, and invested £50 million to help the sector cope with Covid.

A spokesman said: “We are working to fully understand the reasons behind these figures, taking into account individual risk factors which would make someone more vulnerable for COVID-19 such as age, ethnicity, underlying co-morbidities, where they live and the prevalence of the virus in their local area.

"This includes examining why some occupations have seen higher rates of infections and deaths so that we can ensure any steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of this virus can be taken.

"We understand this work is also underway elsewhere in the UK to examine the impact of this virus on a number of occupations.”

The total number of people dying in Scotland, from all causes, is continuing to return to normal levels, however.

In the week to June 14, NRS recorded 1032 deaths - 32 more than the five-year-average, and similar to the 37 excess deaths recorded in the week prior.

READ MORE: Huge spike in deaths at home since start of pandemic

That is well below the 869 excess deaths seen at the height of the Covid outbreak in early April.

However, the report also highlights an increase in the number of Scots dying in their own homes from cancer, heart attacks and strokes which cannot be fully explained by sick people being displaced from hospitals or care homes.

Since March 16, 730 people more than normal have died from cancer at home or in non-institution settings - which can include anywhere outdoors or public venues such as pubs and supermarkets, but not hospices, prisons, or clinics.

Some of this appears to be linked to an increase in palliative care in the community since there were 466 fewer cancer deaths in hospital and 101 fewer in care homes during the pandemic.

But it still leaves 163 excess cancer deaths which cannot be explained in this way.

Richard Meade, head of policy and public affairs for Marie Curie in Scotland said the charity has "serious concerns" that increasing demand for palliative care has left loved ones shouldering the burden.

He said: “At Marie Curie we have seen an increase in demand for the care we provide at home and are increasing our support for care homes.

"It’s shocking that social care workers have been hardest hit by this pandemic and there must be more work done urgently on how we can better protect and support all our healthcare workers.

“The NRS figures show an increase in deaths at home but that doesn’t necessarily mean those people have been supported with palliative care.

"During coronavirus our Marie Curie Nursing Services have seen an increase in demand for short visits and we’ve created rapid response services to best support families as well as ease pressures on the NHS.

"However we know that people are still missing out and we have serious concerns that a lot of care is falling on loved ones.

"The repercussions of that to their health and wellbeing, especially mental health, and the effect it will have on their grief will be felt for a long time to come.

“For anyone struggling we’d urge them to contact their GP or District Nurse and our free Support Line can also offer practical advice and a nurse to speak to - 0800 090 2309."

Macmillan’s director of policy Steven McIntosh, said: “These figures are another reminder of the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on people with cancer in Scotland.

“The government must restore cancer services safely and quickly, while assuring people feel confident that it’s safe to attend hospital or see their GP.”

A similar pattern is seen in relation to heart attacks and strokes.

Between March 16 and June 14, 504 Scots more than normal died at home or in non-institution settings from circulatory problems.

There were also an extra 96 such deaths in care homes, but only 406 fewer hospital deaths, leaving nearly 200 unexplained.

Growing evidence has linked Covid to causing blood clots, suggesting that some early stroke or heart attack deaths may have actually been triggered by the infection.

However, a separate report by Public Health Scotland also shows that there was a “sharp drop” in cardiovascular attendances in A&E from early March to 60% below average.

“Levels rose again by the end of May, but remain around 30% below the 2018-19 average”, said PHS, citing “public anxiety about using NHS services” as a possible cause.

Lawrence Cowan from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “These figures are a tragic reminder that the impact of Covid-19 goes well beyond coronavirus itself – it has impacted how people feel about using our health service for other serious conditions.

“If you have symptoms of a stroke or heart attack you need to go to hospital.

"We need to re-double our efforts to make sure that people know our NHS is still here to help people with life-threatening conditions.

“For months, probably years to come, there will be a lot of discussion about serious NHS pressures caused by this pandemic.

"While we have those discussions we must also reinforce that the NHS is here for everyone who needs it.”