A British medical expert has said that official data are prone to be overinterpreted as it does not distinguish between people who are hospitalised for COVID-19-related illnesses and those who receive medical care for other reasons but then test positive.
Chris Hopson, CEO at NHS Providers, a membership organisation for NHS (National Health Service) trusts in England, said there has been an increase in the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19, but warned against misinterpreting the data.
He said: “In the previous peaks, we’ve had some very seriously ill older people who’ve got really significant respiratory problems and … they had to go into critical care.
“The difference this time is we’ve got quite a few patients who are coming in—they might have fallen off their bike and knocked their head or broken their leg—and what’s happening is they’ve got no symptoms but when they arrive, they’re actually testing positive for COVID.
“Interestingly, the statistics that we use don’t actually distinguish between those two. So we just need to be careful about overinterpreting the data.”
Despite the rising number of people in hospital who have tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, Hopson said that UK hospitals “are still waiting to see—are we going to see a significant number of increases in terms of the number of patients coming into hospital with serious Omicron-related disease.”
He also said that staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment for COVID-19.
Other British experts have also cast doubt on the reliability of official COVID-19 data.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in October that raw data on COVID-19 cases and deaths are “quite misleading.”
He told the House of Commons that it is not appropriate to compare positive case numbers between the UK and other countries because the country’s high case rate is “partly related to very high testing.”
Compared with case numbers, Pollard said it is more important to look at hospital admissions and deaths.
Even with deaths, Pollard said the raw data are “quite misleading,” because it is recorded as being within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test. When transmission is high, lots of people who test positive for COVID-19 will have actually died from other causes, he said.
He said hospital admissions now are “quite a different story from last year,” with the vast majority of people now going in having shorter hospital stays and much milder disease.
PA contributed to this report.