The difference in the use of mortality is related to COVID-19 published by DHSC and ONS | Instant News


Public trust and trust in statistics are a fundamental part of Code of Practice for Statistics. To ensure transparent public explanation of published data sources on coronavirus deaths (COVID-19), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to publish a joint statement on 31 March 2020 explaining the differences between figures published by DHSC and ONS.

Since April 29, 2020, DHSC publishes as their own The daily announces the death rate from COVID-19 for the new UK series that uses improved data for the UK produced by Public Health England (PHE). These figures give a count of all deaths where a positive test for COVID-19 has been confirmed, wherever the death occurred. Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have begun to cover deaths outside the hospital, so this change will ensure that the UK-Wide series has a common and common definition. This updated statement explains what new data is and how they differ from the two data series previously published by DHSC and the figures produced by ONS.

Separately, to increase the availability of timely data on deaths in nursing homes involving COVID-19, the ONS and the Quality of Care Commission (CQC) agreed to publish from April 28, 2020 the number of temporary deaths in nursing homes, based on legal notice based on care . home provider to CQC. Separated an explanatory statement about this new data has been published jointly by ONS and CQC.

Data source description

The main sources of COVID-19 mortality data are:

That DHSC COVID-19 mortality data every day published for England at 14:00 every day. From 29 April 2020, this is based (for the UK) on increased data generated by PHE, which gives a count of all deaths where positive tests for COVID-19 have been confirmed, where the deaths occurred. Comparable figures come from Wales Public Health, Scottish Health Protection and the Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland). This is the most reliable source for daily reporting for a direct understanding of a pandemic.

ONS weekly mortality data for England and Wales released every Tuesday at 9:30 am and relates to the week ending 11 days before (for example, data for the week ending March 20, 2020 is released on March 31, 2020). This is based on the registration of death where COVID-19 confirmed or suspected is mentioned on the death certificate, where the death occurred. Certification of death involving COVID-19 does not depend on positive testing.

DHSC daily data provide an important indication of early COVID-19 deaths that occurred after a positive test, and the new methodology of PHE means that this calculation now covers all such deaths, regardless of circumstances. Further information about the new data source is provided in this statement.

The ONS weekly death rate includes all deaths where registration specifies COVID-19, including those that occur outside the hospital (for example, in a nursing home). Weekly figures based on the registration date roughly follow daily figures, with a short time lag. This reflects the time between death occurred and officially registered.

The ONS also publishes the number of deaths involving COVID-19 registered, the number that actually happened according to our knowledge up to the reporting date (usually 11 days before publication), and the actual number that occurs if we include everything we know about until publication. .

Data previously published

Narrower data series published by DHSC on the GOV.UK website can still found as reference.

NHS England continues to publish their data series Death of COVID in hospitals in the UK, which includes hospital deaths in patients with positive test results. This is arranged based on the date of death.

Technical definition

The new data series produced by PHE was created by combining death reports from three different sources in the UK. The three sources are:

  • hospital deaths, notified to NHS England by NHS trusts using the COVID-19 Patient Notification System (CPNS) (previously the source of daily COVID-19 deaths in the UK)

  • death notified to the PHE Health Protection Team during outbreak management (especially in a non-hospital environment) in people with a COVID-19 test that is confirmed and recorded in an electronic reporting system

  • all people with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 tests were reported to PHE through Second Generation Surveillance System (SGSS) (PDF, 344KB) (centralized repository of laboratory results from Public Health and NHS laboratories). This list is sent daily to Demographic Batch Service (DBS) to check NHS patient records for reports of individuals who died within the previous 24 hours. These reports include deaths in any arrangement.

Quality assurance is carried out by PHE using a semi-automatic program, with manual inspection before and after processing. This involves sensing data checking in connection with important information (for example, age at death, date of birth, hospital admission, death report). Data from each source is combined and duplicate reports relating to the same individual are deleted.

A detailed technical paper PHE has been published.

The sources and methods used in the ONS death registration data are described in User guide for mortality statistics.

Comparison of data sources

Table 1 presents a summary of the differences between data sources.

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