Health Minister Robin Swann has emphasised his commitment to transparency on statistics on Coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Ireland.
Mr Swann detailed the current approach to reporting fatalities linked to the virus.
“I want to continue seeing the maximum possible transparency on this issue,” he stated.
“I want to explore with NISRA if it is possible for it to report more frequently than once a week on deaths associated with Covid-19 across hospitals and the community.
“This is not straightforward and I want to thank all those who are working hard in this area to provide up to date and reliable statistics.”
The Minister spelt out the current dual system for reporting fatalities relating to Covid-19.
– the Department of Health publishes a daily total of all deaths recorded by HSC Trusts where there has been a laboratory confirmed positive Covid-19 test within 28 days of death. These will have been mainly but not solely hospital deaths. Analysis of the setting of death for this daily total indicates in the region of 25% have occurred in care homes.
The daily reporting was never intended to be a complete record of all deaths associated with Covid-19. The daily figure provides a real time indicator of progression of the spread of the virus and the seriousness of its impact. Its primary use is for surveillance and tracking; but publication also acknowledges the public interest in these figures.
– A weekly bulletin is published by NISRA (the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency), the public authority responsible for statistics on deaths.
The weekly NISRA bulletin details where Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.
It is clear that there will be some overlap between the community deaths included in the published daily figures and the weekly NISRA bulletin.
“I fully accept this is complicated. Statistics help us to track the virus and keep the public informed. But the well-established process for death registration was not designed for use in a pandemic of this nature,” the Minister added.
“It also has to be stressed that there is a time lag associated with completion of registration of deaths in the community. It can take a number of days for the necessary documentation to be completed and fully registered. So this makes it very challenging if not impossible to provide daily reports that are fully up to date.
“I am committed to doing all I can to get as much information into the public domain as possible.”
Definition used up until today for reporting of numbers in respect of Covid-19 deaths
Northern Ireland/Scotland/Wales – Daily – All deaths with a laboratory confirmed positive Covid-19 test within 28 days of death
England – Daily – Hospital deaths with a laboratory confirmed positive Covid-19 test within 28 days of death
Ireland – Daily – Up to 23 April – Laboratory confirmed Covid-19 related deaths. From 24 April the figures also include “probable deaths” – where a laboratory test has not been done but where a doctor believes a death is associated with COVID-19
Weekly (by NISRA / ONS / NRS)
Northern Ireland/Scotland/Wales/England – Deaths involving COVID-19 – i.e. where COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.