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.