Measures used for counting deaths from COVID-19: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

When someone dies and has been confirmed as having covid-19, but also has severe underlying health conditions (eg Cancer / Lung disease / Heart disease etc). Are these deaths being recorded as a covid-19 death?

Or are they only recorded as such where covid-19 is the clear principle cause of death?


The answer to your question is that on the daily measure of confirmed covid-19 deaths, someone with a severe underlying health condition would be included. More information is provided below.

There are two main measures we use for counting deaths from Covid, and each has a valuable role in helping to monitor the number of deaths in Scotland involving COVID-19.

1. Public Health Scotland (PHS) determines confirmed COVID-19 deaths as individuals who died within 28 days of their first laboratory confirmed report of COVID-19 infection and were registered with National Records of Scotland. These are important because they are available earlier, and give a quicker indication of what is happening day by day and are broadly comparable with the figures released daily for the UK by the Department for Health and Social Care.

2. National Records of Scotland (NRS) provide a weekly summary each Wednesday which includes the cumulative total of all deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate (including suspected COVID-19 deaths) up to 3 days before publication of the report. These deaths do not all need to have a lab positive result as they include deaths where the certifying doctor recorded that COVID-19 was a probable or suspected cause of death on the death certificate. Using the complete death certificate allows NRS to analyse a lot of information, such as location of death and what other health conditions contributed to the death. The NRS statistics include a breakdown of deaths by underlying cause, including where COVID-19 is the underlying cause of death. More information is
available at: Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland | National Records of Scotland (

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