After almost 15 months of various forms of lockdown, hospitals have finally been told to change the way they collect data on patients who test positive for Covid. They have been instructed to differentiate between those who are actually sick with Covid symptoms and those who test positive but are actually ill with something else. The Independent has the story.
NHS England has instructed hospitals to make the change to the daily flow of data sent by NHS trusts and told the Independent that the move was being done to help analyse the effect of the vaccine programme and whether it was successfully reducing Covid sickness…
One NHS source said the new data would be “more realistic” as not all patients were sick with the virus, adding: “But it will make figures look better as there have always been some, for example stroke [patients], who also had Covid as an incidental finding.”
In a letter to hospital bosses on June 7th, shared with the Independent, NHS England’s Covid Incident Director, Professor Keith Willett, said that from now on NHS England wanted “a breakdown of the current stock of Covid patients into those who are in hospital with acute Covid symptoms (and for whom Covid is the primary reason for being in hospital); and those who are primarily in hospital for a reason other than Covid (but for whom the hospital is having to manage and treat the Covid symptoms alongside their primary condition)”.
He added: “In lay terms, this could be considered as a binary split between those in hospital ‘for Covid’ and those in hospital ‘with Covid’. We are asking for this binary split for those patients newly admitted to hospital and those newly diagnosed with Covid while in hospital.”…
NHS England data on hospital admissions is published daily at a regional level and several days later on the Government’s dashboard. An internal daily dashboard of Covid data tracks infections across hospitals but is not made public.
Professor Ian Douglas from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “I think there are good arguments for presenting these data separately – people in hospital ‘with’ vs ‘for’ Covid, as it does partly address the burden to health services due to the virus. Not completely though, because people in hospital with Covid will presumably also need to be treated differently to avoid further spread, which places some extra burden on the hospitals.
“I’ve got no idea what the split is like at the moment, and importantly we won’t know retrospectively what the trend is. Following on from that, there are only a few days before any announcement about June 21st, which may not give us long enough to be sure about what direction the ‘for Covid’ numbers are going.”
This change resembles the recent shift in the definition of a “case” by the CDC in America, where an infection in a vaccinated person is now only a “case” when the person is hospitalised or dies, whereas with the unvaccinated any positive PCR test still counts as a “case”, no matter how mild or asymptomatic.
Now, I’m all in favour of a more restrictive and conventional definition of case that gives a more realistic picture of the impact of the disease. But one can’t help suspect it’s more about politics than science when the kind of change many of us have been calling for since the start only comes once it helps to create the impression that the vaccines are working.
The Independent report is worth reading in full.