CORONAVIRUS hospital admissions were over-counted as recovered patients returning without Covid were included in stats, it’s been revealed.
An investigation for the Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) found that people were being counted as ‘Covid hospital admissions’ if they had EVER had the virus.
Government figures show that, at the peak of the pandemic in early April, nearly 20,000 people a week were being admitted to hospital with coronavirus – but the true figure is unknown because of the problem with over-counting.
This over-counting mirrors the problems with data for coronavirus deaths – where people who had died of other causes were being included in Covid-19 statistics if they had once tested positive.
Professor Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, asked by Sage to look into the situation, told The Telegraph: “By June, it was becoming clear that people were being admitted to hospital for non-Covid reasons who had tested positive many weeks before.
“Consequently, the NHS revised its situation report to accommodate this.”
This means that the current state of the epidemic has likely not been wholly accurate.
Professor Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “The admissions data is a crucial point.
“I’d say it is more important than the death data because it is the best marker of the impact of the disease.”
The issue came to light on June 18, when Sage minutes record that Government scientists registered concern that non-Covid patients were being included in the outbreak data.
Public Health England, the NHS Medical Director and Prof Medley were asked to convene a group to find the “ground truth”.
Prof Medley said: “With any epidemic of a new disease, there is always a period during which the clinical manifestation of the disease is being developed.
“The initial aim is to be as complete as possible, even though there will be overestimation.
“So, we saw with the death statistics, that initially a ‘Covid death’ was defined as any death in which the person had previously tested positive.
“The same is true, but even more so, for hospital admissions.
“In order to capture all the potential manifestations of the disease at the start of the epidemic, all admissions of people who had tested positive were counted as ‘Covid-related admissions’.”
Experts said knowing the correct admissions figures was crucial, not only for determining how many people are really being hospitalised with the virus but also for working out death rates.
Prof Heneghan added: “If admissions are going up, then that should drive the lockdown.
“But currently you have people with active infections, those who have tested positive but have been discharged, and those who have contracted it in hospital, so it isn’t helpful.
“This really does need sorting out as we go into the winter, otherwise we get into this noisy position where we can’t understand what’s going on.
“There will be loads of people coming in with different conditions who have survived this, so it’s a huge problem.
“It’s clouding our judgment as to whether the disease is having a significant impact.”