NHS is Not Trying to Cover Up Coronavirus Death Statistics

A video has been doing the rounds this morning of last night’s Newsnight claim that the NHS requires family consent* to release death figures. Combined with the late release of Wednesday’s figures, and their smaller increase than Tuesday’s numbers, figures from across the political spectrum are now questioning whether the figures are being “fiddled” by the Government.

When presenting the new data, Nic Watt said:

“We need to be careful not to read too much into it because the Department of Health as we speak is changing the way that it is releasing and compiling these figures. Normally these figures would come out in the early afternoon. When I last looked they had still not come out.

The reason for that is that it turns out that these figures may not actually be the deaths that have taken place over the last 24 hours, because the Department of Health, the NHS needs to have the consent of the families of people who’ve died to release their figures.”

Which seems… odd. The death statistics being talked about are numbers not names – and by their nature anonymised.

A source at the Health Department tells Guido that the reason for the delay is that the numbers are simply higher than they were before. While numbers used to be released at 2pm every day, the NHS has found that more time is needed to compile larger numbers. The figures themselves come from hospitals, and are centralised at NHS England before they make their way to the Department and can be released…

Yesterday was a ‘crossover day’ between 2pm reporting and later reporting, meaning the figures were lower than normal. As a result, today’s numbers are likely to be higher. The Health Department says that contrary to the inference many took from Newsnight’s report, the way the data is collected hasn’t changed, just the timing. Time to put your tinfoil hats back in the cupboard, folks…

*They don’t. Public Health England (PHE) does not need the consent of families to publish national death statistics.

UPDATE Friday March, 27:  The figures for the previous day were hitherto released at 5pm. To ensure data can be verified and published in a timely, consistent way, PHE are now moving to a new system for publication of deaths. The latest figures counted from the previous day (for a period from 5pm-5pm) are published at 2pm the following day.

Figures issued yesterday reflect the new reporting timeframe, and therefore were comprised of deaths over an extended period. Today’s published figures comprise the period from 5pm 25th March to 5pm 26th March. Going forward all future death announcements comprising the 5pm-5pm period.

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