Matt Hancock calls urgent review into 'over exaggerated' coronavirus death toll

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly called for an urgent review into the way Public Health England (PHE) counts coronavirus deaths.

A scientist has realised PHE is ‘over-exaggerating’ the daily coronavirus death toll because it counts people if they die of any cause at any time after testing positive for Covid-19.  

Dr Yoon Loke, a pharmacologist at the University of East Anglia, made his findings public in a blog post on Thursday night.

He wrote: ‘It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not.

‘PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the COVID test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community.

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‘Anyone who has tested COVID positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE COVID death figures.’

Dr Loke said the way PHE collects data means ‘no one with Covid in England is allowed to recover from their illness’.

‘A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a COVID death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later’ he wrote.

He said this ‘statistical flaw’, which only applies to how out-of-hospital deaths are being counted, explains why England’s daily death toll is still much higher than neighbouring regions.

It is not clear how many community deaths may have been recorded in this way.

The Evening Standard’s political editor, Joe Murphy, this morning revealed on Twitter that Matt Hancock is calling an ‘urgent review’ into the ‘fiasco’.

This is a breaking news story. More to follow

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