Tuesday, 05 July, 2022

Coronavirus: Virus deaths error blamed on computer system

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There have now been 751 confirmed deaths from coronavirus in Wales

A health board failed to report daily coronavirus death figures because it used a different system to the rest of the Welsh NHS, Wales’ chief medical officer has revealed.

Dr Frank Atherton said the “glitch” at Betsi Cadwaladr health board had been corrected.

The health board, which covers north Wales, has assured the government it will submit the figures daily, he said.

An investigation into the error was launched last week.

Betsi Cadwaladr has been under special measures – close Welsh Government supervision – since 2015.

  • Report awaited on under-reporting of virus deaths
  • Virus death figure probe after health board error

On Friday, the number of deaths reported by Public Health Wales (PHW) rose by 110, taking the total to 751.

The sudden increase, compared to 17 reported the day before, was because 84 deaths were confirmed between 20 March and 22 April within the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area.

First Minister Mark Drakeford is due to receive a report on the incident later.

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Frank Atherton is Wales’ chief medical officer

Plaid Cymru said an “urgent explanation” was needed, while the Welsh Conservatives said it “smacks of incompetence of the highest level”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Dr Atherton said: “When the epidemic first started earlier this year, Wales put in place a new electronic reporting system for health boards to use.

“That was to pull to pull together the numbers so that we had an accurate figure.

“Betsi Cadwaladr decided not to use that system and used a different system. That’s why there has been a glitch in the process which has now been corrected.”

He said the health board has “assured us they will submit the figures everyday. Public Health Wales will be looking across the system to make sure there are no other issues elsewhere.”

Pushed on why it was not noticed until last week, he added: “The epidemic was moving east to west and south to north, we did expect to see a small number of deaths and cases up in the north.

“It’s just that the trend was bigger than expected and that’s what triggered the question as to whether reporting was being accurately done which has lead to this review.”

Figures of the number of admissions were not affected, he said.

PHW has repeatedly warned the number of deaths could be higher than figures showed, as they only included the deaths formally reported to them, those who died in hospitals, and some care homes, and whose tests were analysed in a lab.

‘People won’t buy this’

Clwyd West Conservative Assembly Member Darren Millar expressed incredulity at Dr Atherton’s explanation.

He said on Twitter: “People in north Wales won’t buy this explanation. Do they take us for mugs? As a health board in special measures, if there’s any NHS organisation that should be getting things right when reporting to Welsh Government, it’s Betsi.”

Meanwhile, Dr Atherton said he was worried people may be getting “lockdown fatigue”.

He said it did feel the case there were more cars moving around. He warned of tighter restrictions if declines in the virus’ spread were reversed.

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