Leaked data shows that “vast numbers” of those being classed as hospitalised by Covid-19 are first admitted with other ailments, according to a report by the British newspaper, the Telegraph.
“Experts said the news meant the national statistics may far overstate the levels of pressures on the NHS,” it said.
“More than half” of those currently being classified as Covid hospitalisations are patients where the virus was picked up by routine testing, the data showed.
The Telegraph said the leaked information “covered all NHS trusts in England” and showed that just 44 per cent of patients classed as being hospitalised with Covid had tested positive by the time they were admitted, as of Thursday of last week.
56% of Covid cases were not detected until patients already admitted underwent standard Covid tests, they reported.
Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “This data is incredibly important, and it should be published on an ongoing basis. “When people hear about hospitalisations with Covid, they will assume that Covid is the likely cause, but this data shows something quite different – this is about Covid being detected after tests were looking for it,” he told the Telegraph.
“This needs to be fixed as a matter of urgency,” Prof Henghan said, adding that the published data could lead the public “towards false conclusions”, by exaggerating the true levels of pressures on hospitals.
Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted that at least some Covid-19 hospital cases in Ireland were from patients admitted to hospital with totally unrelated conditions, and called for greater accuracy in reporting from NPHET.
Up until now, if someone is admitted to hospital for a non-virus related condition – for example, a broken leg – but tests positive for Covid-19 while there, they are marked down as a Covid hospitalisation, even if they have little to no Covid symptoms.
The Fine Gael leader said that this way of measuring cases should change.
“There are essentially three categories and we should be able to quantify them,” he said.
“The first are those admitted with Covid and being treated for it; the second category are those admitted with something else but who got Covid in hospital and are now being treated for it, and the third are those admitted for something else, who were swabbed and found positive, but who are not being treated for it.”
A letter from the Department of the Taoiseach asserts that daily case numbers should only reflect people who go to hospital specifically because they had severe Covid-19 symptoms.
According to the Irish Independent, some ministers privately believe that at least 10% of Covid-19 reported patients have no serious symptoms.
“We don’t know the actual level. It could be higher than that,” one minister told the Independent.
Additionally, Tony Canavan from Saolta group told Morning Ireland last week that the vast majority of Covid patients in his hospitals had tested positive after admission for something else.