Cases

A Doctor Writes: The NHS Is Concealing Important Information from the Public

We’re republishing a post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, on the unreliability of official figures on ‘Covid inpatients’ . This was first published in July and only now has the mainstream media finally cottoned on to the fact that the NHS’s Covid inpatient figures are unreliable. Since we published this, there have been at least three updates to the ‘primary diagnosis schedule’, all showing a consistent overstatement of 25%.

On Thursdays, the NHS release the weekly summary data in relation to Covid patients. Normally this is a more granular version of the daily summaries – it has some hospital level detail and figures on non-Covid workload for comparison. Usually interesting but not especially informative.

Yesterday was an exception. Placed down at the bottom of the page, almost like a footnote, was a “Primary Diagnosis” Supplement. Graph One shows the information contained in that spreadsheet. I find it astonishing. In essence, it shows that since June 18th, the NHS has known its daily figures in relation to ‘Covid inpatients’ were unreliable at best and deliberately untrue at worst.

The Yellow bars are what the NHS has been informing the nation were Covid inpatients. The Blue bars are the numbers of inpatients actually suffering from Covid symptoms – the difference between the two are patients in hospital who tested positive for Covid but were being treated for something different – where Covid was effectively an incidental finding but not clinically relevant.

For example, on July 27th, the total number of beds occupied by Covid patients was reported as 5,021. However, until today, we were not permitted to know that only 3,855 of those were actually admitted with Covid as the primary diagnosis. There has been a fairly consistent overestimate of the true number by about 25% running back to mid June – figures before that date are ‘not available’.

Why does this matter?

Well in one way it doesn’t matter very much. Whether the burden of Covid inpatients is 5% of the available beds or 3.5%, isn’t massively significant – it’s still a relatively small proportion. NHS managers are already arguing that even patients with Covid being treated for another condition still need isolation procedures and present an extra burden on the system. They may argue that the NHS is still under strain from staff absences, stress levels and the waiting list backlog – so it doesn’t really matter if the published figures are somewhat inaccurate.

But it matters hugely.

Health Secretary Attempts to Outline What Could Trigger ‘Plan B’ This Winter

Just as plans for vaccine passports at ‘large venues’ left us wondering where exactly the measures would be enforced, we have been left in the dark about what will push the Government to enact ‘Plan B’ (including mask mandates and vaccine passes) or ‘Plan C’ (another full lockdown) this winter. Health Secretary Sajid Javid attempted to clarify the issue this morning but was coy about the specifics. Sky News has the story.

The Health Secretary has said A&E pressures and increasing Covid hospital admissions could trigger the Government’s Plan B for the winter – as experts warned hospital admissions could reach 7,000 a day.

Sajid Javid added that a new variant of concern would not necessarily be a trigger as he refused to rule out a lockdown.

Plan B, which includes mandatory face masks, a work from home order and vaccine passports, was revealed by the Government on Tuesday as part of the autumn and winter plan for dealing with the Covid pandemic.

The Health Secretary told Sky News: “What happens in the NHS is going to be hugely important to me, to the whole country, making sure that we don’t get to a position again where the NHS becomes unsustainable.

“I think we’re going to have to look at a number of measures, so of course that would be the level of hospitalisation, it will be the pressures on A&E, the pressures on the workforce, so we’d have to take all of these together.”

However, he refused to put a number on how many cases or admissions would trigger plan B.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passports, Mask Mandates and Another Lockdown All on the Cards If Covid Infections Don’t Stay Low This Winter

Just days after it led the public into believing that plans for vaccine passports were off the table, the Government has announced that they will be introduced – along with mask mandates and potentially another full lockdown – if booster jabs and vaccines for healthy teenagers fail to keep Covid infections down this winter. Laying out its new plans, the Government said it is “committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS”. MailOnline has the story.

Fronting a press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister insisted that the U.K. was “incomparably” better placed to deal with the disease this year.

He said he hoped the situation could be kept stable with more jabs and the public behaving sensibly – although ministers have made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out.

Professor Whitty gave a more downbeat assessment saying that infections were “high” relative to last year, and the NHS was under “extreme pressure” even though vaccines were helping significantly.

Meanwhile, Sir Patrick seemed to send a thinly-veiled message to Mr. Johnson by saying that when it comes to measures to stem cases the lesson was “you have to go earlier than you want to, you have to go harder than you want to”. …

Earlier, Sajid Javid was heckled by Tories admitting that ministers can only give Britons the “best possible chance” of avoiding brutal curbs.

In a statement to MPs, he stressed that vaccines can help “build defences’ against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting next week.

But Mr Javid was hit with howls of rage from Conservatives in the Commons as he said the blueprint includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory “in certain settings”, more working from home and social distancing if the NHS is under threat.

Vaccine passports will be kept “in reserve” and could be introduced in England with a week’s notice, even though they will not go ahead from next month as originally intended. …

The Winter Plan document lays out the details of ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. But although it does not go into detail about other contingencies, it states that further steps cannot be ruled out.

“While the Government expects that, with strong engagement from the public and businesses, these contingency measures should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence in autumn or winter, the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees,” the document says.

“The Government remains committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed but more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort.”

Worth reading in full.

Covid ‘Cases’ Fall by More than 20% In a Week

Talk has been hotting up over the past week on the introduction of vaccine passports and the vaccination of children, but the figures show that the virus continues to wane, with reported ‘cases’ having fallen by 21% over the past week and the number of deaths after 28 days of a positive test only seeing a slight increase of 30. MailOnline has more.

Department of Health bosses posted 29,547 new cases today, down 21% on the 37,578 recorded last Saturday.

But the number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test is continuing to increase, with 156 people falling victim to the virus. The figure was up 30% on the 120 recorded last week.

Fatalities tend to reflect changes in infection levels at least a week after due to the time it takes for people to become seriously ill.

Britain’s vaccine drive is continuing to roll forward with 89,832 second doses dished out today. It takes the total amount of adults fully protected against the virus to just under 43.9 million (80.8%).

Some 25,019 first doses were also dished out, taking the total number of people to receive at least one jab up to 48.4 million (89%).

The figures come amid reports the AstraZeneca jab could be largely withdrawn from U.K.’s vaccine programme as millions of Britons who were given two doses are likely to be offered a Pfizer booster shot.

The booster programme is expected to rely mainly on the Pfizer vaccine under a ‘mix and match’ strategy to top-up immunity.

Worth reading in full.

A Doctor Writes: Predictions of Doom Have Not Been Borne Out

We’re publishing an update this morning from the Daily Sceptic’s in-house doctor in which he analyses the latest NHS hospital data. Conclusion: no need to panic.

I have been a bit quiet lately, partly due to being on holiday and partly due to waiting a while to examine what trends are emerging from the hospital admissions data over the later summer.

On looking at the latest figures and associated media commentary I have been reminded of an old Russian aphorism from the Soviet era: “The future is certain, but the past keeps changing.”

For example, on February 3rd, 2020, Boris Johnson, warned of the danger that “new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic”, leading to measures that “go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage”.

I didn’t catch any reference to that (very reasonable) remark this week when the Prime Minister imposed further taxation on the working-age population and the companies that employ them. Before returning to the airbrushing of recent history, I will consider the hospital level data over the last month to discern trends and discuss what reasonable inferences we can draw from the numbers. I confess that some of the information doesn’t quite make sense to me – I will elaborate on this point later.

The first and most glaringly obvious fact is that the catastrophic tsunami of hospitalisations confidently predicted by all the experts who have assumed the governance of the U.K. has failed to arrive. How annoying that must be for Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet, who described the relaxing of restrictions in July as “driven by libertarian ideology” rather than the data. Or Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, who said that “the Government policy seems designed to increase cases” and predicted there will be hundreds of ‘superspreader’ events in the coming weeks. The Lancet published a letter signed by 122 self-identifying experts which suggested that the Government was conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” in removing societal restrictions on July 19th.

Test and Trace Call Centre Staff Are Being Laid off Because There Aren’t Enough ‘Cases’ to Keep Them Busy

Test and Trace bosses are having to lay off staff because there aren’t enough ‘cases’ to keep them busy, just weeks after they were reportedly pushed by the Government to hire thousands more. The Sun has the story.

Test and Trace call centre staff in England are being let go just weeks after a drive to hire reinforcements ahead of the dreaded third wave, the Sun can reveal.

Outsourcing firm Sitel has reportedly told phone handlers they are no longer needed because the service is overstaffed.

Officials confirmed the Department of Health is shrinking Test and Trace because of a “decrease” in case numbers over the summer – despite signs they are now rising again.

One call centre worker claimed 4,000 workers – who phone Covid positive cases and their contacts to make sure people self-isolate – could lose their jobs after Sitel started short-notice terminations in August.

But bosses would not say how many will be let go.

The source said: “Some people have only been employed for two weeks and they’re already being told to leave. We’ve been hiring 60 people a day for the last two months.

“I think sacking people in such a short space of time without any notice is bad.”

Contractors were reportedly paid to hire thousands more tracers earlier in the summer when top Government advisers warned cases could hit 100,000 a day after lockdown ended.

But infections peaked at 55,000 in July and have since fallen to around 35,000 per day.

Worth reading in full.

New Zealand Entering Lockdown Following Just One Positive Covid Test

When a single positive Covid test result was reported in Canberra, Australia, earlier this month, the city locked down for a week. New Zealand has gone one step further, with the reporting of one positive test resulting in the whole country being plunged into lockdown. BBC News has the story.

The case was detected in Auckland, which will be in lockdown for a week, while the rest of the country will be in lockdown for three days.

Authorities say they are working on the assumption that the new case was the Delta variant.

Just around 20% of its population has been fully vaccinated.

Coromandel, a coastal town where the infected person had visited, will be in lockdown for seven days too.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the toughest “Level Four” rules were required – closing schools, offices and all businesses with only essential services remaining operational.

“I want to assure New Zealand that we have planned for this eventuality. Going hard and early has worked for us before,” she said.

The patient is a 58 year-old man, who is believed to have been infectious since last Thursday. 

There are at least 23 potential sites of transmission. 

There was reportedly a rush at supermarkets in Auckland, as locals anticipated a snap lockdown.

Officials said there was a need for strong response because of the fear of the Delta variant, and because there was no clear link between the new case and the border or quarantine facilities.

Worth reading in full.

Even if We Set Liberty and Social Responsibility Aside, Vaccine Passports Are Still a Bad Idea, a Doctor Writes

There is a good letter in the Telegraph today written by a doctor who highlights that vaccine passports are pointless because people who are ‘jabbed’ can still spread the virus.

Sir – Discussions about vaccination passports have centred on personal freedom and social responsibility, yet no one appears to have conceded that the vaccination will do little to stop the spread of coronavirus.

I am a doctor and have been double jabbed. I expect the vaccination to mitigate the virus if I get it, but not to stop me from getting it or from passing it on. The Delta variant will still be transmitted within both the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

Vaccination will not stop the spread of the disease. It will, however, provide individual protection. Passports would be relevant only if the vaccination stopped the spread of coronavirus. It doesn’t.

Dr Steven R. Hopkins
Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

Yet the Government still seems set to go ahead with its plans to bar the unvaccinated from nightclubs and other ‘large venues’ (the meaning of which is likely to continue expanding).

Australia’s Capital Entering Seven-Day Lockdown Following One Positive Covid Test

Canberra, the capital of Australia, is being plunged into lockdown for a whole week following the reporting of a single positive Covid test. Retail and hospitality venues will be closed, again, and residents will not be able to leave their homes for ‘non-essential’ reasons past 5pm. The Independent has the story.

Canberra joins Sydney, Melbourne and several cities in New South Wales state that are locked down due to the Delta variant.

Canberra residents can only leave home for essential reasons from 5pm on Thursday, general retail stores will be closed and hospitality venues will only to able to sell takeout, an Australian Capital Territory Government statement said.

Schools will be open to students who cannot stay at home.

The infection is the first locally-acquired case in the city of 460,000 since July 10th last year.

A Canberra resident, a man aged in his 20s, had been infectious in Canberra since Sunday and tested positive on Thursday, Australian Capital Territory Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said.

The source of the infection was unknown, she said. Covid was detected in wastewater late Wednesday, she said.

The lockdown starts on the final day of a two-week sitting of the Federal Parliament.

Worth reading in full.

The Figures Don’t Match Up To the Fear, a Doctor Writes

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who says the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not only failed to arrive after ‘Freedom Day’, but we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once remarked: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I have been reflecting on that comment, now we are three weeks since the inappropriately named July 19th ‘Freedom Day’. Readers will remember the cacophony of shrieking from assorted ‘health experts’ prophesying certain doom and a tidal wave of acute Covid admissions that would overwhelm our beleaguered NHS within a fortnight. Representatives from the World Health Organisation described the approach as “epidemiologically stupid”. A letter signed by 1,200 self-defined experts was published in the Lancet predicting imminent catastrophe.

Accordingly, this week I thought I should take a look at how the apocalypse is developing and then make some general observations on the centrality of trust and honesty in medical matters.

Let’s start with daily admissions to hospitals from the community in Graph One. Daily totals on the blue bars, seven-day rolling average on the orange line. Surprisingly the numbers are lower than on July 19th. How can that be?

Perhaps there are more patients stacking up in hospitals – sicker patients tend to stay longer and are hard to discharge, so the overall numbers can build up rather quickly. So, Graph Two shows Covid inpatients up to August 5th. Readers should note that Graph Two includes patients suffering from acute Covid (about 75% of the total) plus patients in hospital for non-Covid related illness, but testing positive for Covid (the remaining 25%). How strange – numbers seem to be falling, not rising. This does not fit with the hypothesis – what might explain this anomalous finding?

Maybe the numbers of patients in ICU might be on the increase – after all, both the Beta variant and the Delta variant were said to be both more transmissible and more deadly than the Alpha variant. Graph Three shows patients in ICU in English Hospitals up to August 5th. It shows a similar pattern to Graph Two – a small fall in overall patient numbers in the last two weeks. I looked into the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre ICU audit report up to July 30th. This confirms the overall impression from the top line figures. Older patients do not seem to be getting ill with Covid. Over half the admissions to ICU with Covid have body mass indices over 30. Severe illness is heavily skewed to patients with co-morbidities and the unvaccinated. Generally speaking, the patients have slightly less severe illness, shorter stays and lower mortality so far.

Finally, we look at Covid related deaths since January 1st, 2021, in Graph Four. A barely discernable increase since the beginning of April.

So, whatever is going on with respect to the progress of the pandemic, the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not arrived yet – in fact, we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.