Posted: Mon 27th Apr 2020

First Minister says coronavirus death reporting error in North Wales is being taken seriously

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he is taking an “error” that saw the North Wales health board fail to report the daily rate of coronavirus deaths seriously. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

An investigation was launched after it was revealed that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board had not reported the statistics correctly for an entire month. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Up until the end of last week, the number of deaths in the region was not declared as the Public Health Wales website instead showed a note which suggested the figure was less than five people. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

It stated: “Figures for some health boards will be suppressed if the number of deaths is five or lower, in order to prevent individual deaths from being identifiable.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

On Friday it was revealed that there had in fact been 88 deaths attributed to coronavirus in North Wales – including 84 added retrospectively which occurred between March 20th and April 22nd. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Public Health Wales said “The sudden increase in numbers is due to a delay in the reporting process.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said the health board failed to report the numbers because it was using a different system to the rest of the NHS in the country. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

This afternoon the First Minister said he expected a full report on what caused the problem to arrive on his desk by the end of the day. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

We asked Mr Drakeford if the report would be made publicly available, and if he was expecting any resignations due to the seriousness of the matter. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said: “I certainly take accurate reporting seriously, as I’ve demonstrated this morning, and I did from the end of Friday afternoon when the difficulty was first reported. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“I think what people in Wales will want to know, what are the conclusions of that report and even more importantly, what we are doing to respond to those conclusions so that we know that if there have been problems they’ve been put.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

The First Minister did not say whether the report would be made public but claimed he was committed to making the conclusions known. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said if it uncovered any other issues then he would expect health boards and Public Health Wales to address them to ensure the accuracy of the data. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

During today’s daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Drakeford said the incident had not impacted the spread of the virus as other indicators were also being used by health services and the government. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

We pointed out that low figures of confirmed cases have been reported in North Wales due to a lack of of testing. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

We asked if he acknowledged that low figures could impact the public’s perception of the issue and subsequently people’s behaviour. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said: “I certainly accept that if the data that has been published turns out not to be accurate, that has an impact on public perception. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“It has an impact on ministerial perception as well, which is why I said from the beginning that ministers are entitled, and the public in Wales is entitled to know that these figures are accurate. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“I’m waiting to see the final report myself today and when we know where the difficulties have been identified, then I expect those difficulties to be put right, whether they are in North Wales or in any other part of Wales. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Wherever you live in Wales, you are entitled to expect that figures published by our system are figures that you can rely on.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

You can view today’s briefing and subsequent Q&A below: ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

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