Coronavirus weekly death rate falling steadily in Bedford since mid-late April

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Bedford Borough’s weekly death rate for COVID-19 (coronavirus) linked deaths peaked in early-mid April and has been falling steadily since. That’s according to data analysed by the Bedford Independent.

In this second of a two-part series looking into the preliminary data for COVID-19 involved deaths in Bedford Borough, we’ve looked at a range of NHS England, ONS and CQC data sources.

And the downward trend in death rate matches mostly in line with the regional and national picture.

COVID-19 linked deaths at Bedford Hosptial

Using NHS England data on COVID-19 positive patient deaths up to 5pm on 18 May, it is possible to chart the peak of COVID-19 deaths at Bedford Hospital.

As can be seen below, Bedford Hospital COVID-19 positive patient deaths began in late March. They peaked in weeks 15-16 (4-17 April) and have gradually fallen since*.

Note: For ease of comparison with ONS and CQC weekly data, each graph runs from Saturday-Friday, e.g. Week 13 – 21 (27 March 2020).

COVID death graph 1

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has experienced a higher overall total of COVID-19 positive patient deaths, but declined from its peak weekly death rate more dramatically.

COVID death graph 2NHS England data on COVID-19 positive patient deaths in hospitals throughout the East of England region follows a very similar trajectory.

COVID death graph 3Separately, it is worth noting that NHS England does not provide any individual hospital data on patients who died in hospital who did not test positive for COVID-19, but where the disease was mentioned on the death certificate.

However, it does keep a regional tally and data up to 5pm on 18 May indicates at least 84 such cases in the East of England region.

Deaths in care homes

Data for deaths occurring within care homes is compiled separately by both the ONS and CQC on a weekly basis, counting a week from Saturday – Friday.

Deaths are also counted as COVID-19 linked under different criteria to NHS England individual hospital data, merely requiring the mention of COVID-19 on an individual’s death certificate, or CQC death notification.

Both data sources also experience a significant time lag at times between registration or notification of and a death occurring.

Bearing this in mind, it is less easy to draw conclusions from data gathered so far.

What is certain, though, is that sadly, deaths in care homes in Bedford Borough have risen significantly in recent weeks and the emergence of COVID-19 linked deaths in care homes is almost certainly the primary factor.

The stacked bar chart below shows according to the latest CQC data, the number of deaths in care homes, COVID-19 linked and non-related to the disease, from the week ending 17 April to 8 May 2020.

COVID death graph 4The corresponding stacked chart for nearby Central Bedfordshire, shows a higher overall total of COVID-19 linked care home deaths.

COVID death graph 5Overall ONS and CQC data on comparable care home numbers of deaths in a calendar year up to 1 May 2020 for England alone, below, indicates the higher number of deaths in care homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID death graph 6By both measures, the number of general care home deaths in England in the same calendar months period is at least 47% higher than the comparable figures for last year.

Deaths by place of occurrence overall

As was reported on Monday (18 May), ONS data states there have been at least five COVID-19 linked deaths in individuals’ homes and one in a hospice in Bedford Borough.

Read: Exclusive: Almost a fifth of Bedford coronavirus deaths have been in care homes

The pie chart below helps show proportionately where the total 189 COVID-19 linked deaths have taken place in Bedford Borough so far.

COVID death graph 7Clearly, COVID-19 linked deaths within the hospital form the overwhelming majority – 80.4%, or 152 out of 189 total COVID-19 linked deaths in Bedford Borough so far tallied – of COVID-19 involved deaths in the borough.

However, it should be noted that due to the different data sources and time lag on data concerning deaths outside of hospital settings, it is likely the proportion of COVID-19 linked deaths outside of hospital is underestimated in this graph.

The national picture, according to ONS England and Wales wide data on COVID-19 linked deaths from 28 December 2019-1 May 2020, shows perhaps the proportion of COVID-19 linked deaths by place of occurrence which may be reflected in the future for Bedford Borough.

COVID death graph 8In this chart, care homes form 24.9%, or 8,312 cases of COVID-19 linked deaths, England and Wales wide. There were 386 ‘Hospice’ (1.16% rounded to 2dp), 1,562 ‘Home’ (4.68%), 142 ‘Other Communal Establishments’ (<1%) and 133 COVID-19 linked deaths ‘Elsewhere’ (<1%).

Conclusion and future data to look out for

While bearing in mind the previously mentioned caveats concerning the data analysed, it is clear that currently COVID-19 linked death rates per week nationwide, regionally and for the borough itself, are on the decline.

As lockdown is very gradually eased, rate of transmission measures will indicate first whether the number of infections and consequently the number of deaths per week may rise again.

Future ONS data on general death figures may also help indicate the level of excess deaths at a local authority level.

It is likely that later this month the ONS will release data for the number of general deaths in Bedford Borough for the month of April, by place of usual residence.

With the first COVID-19 linked deaths in the borough occurring only in the last 10 days of March, comparable figures for general deaths per month in 2019 were almost the same as those for January-March 2020.

Should the ONS general deaths total for Bedford Borough in April be significantly above last year’s figure of 139, this will indicate the extent of the likely higher than average death toll in Bedford Borough since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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