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UK COVID-19 Deaths: Data Quality & Unintended Consequences


As every business leader knows, you measure what you care about! The problems with the UK government’s headline figure for deaths of COVID-19 positive people in hospitals have been highlighted for several weeks. But, as the UK passed the 20k target figure for deaths in hospitals over the weekend, a Financial Times analysis suggests that the real figure could be more than double. Due to the issues on the timeliness and accuracy of UK Govt data, the FT made their estimates based on the excess of expected deaths using the “all cause excess mortality” figures. So, if we would be “doing well to keep UK deaths under 20k” and deaths are now > 20k or >40k, the conclusion we are naturally drawing is that “we are not doing well”. There is a great deal of public anger and frustration at the moment. Most of that is due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. But we are in control of some things: complete, accurate and timely data is one thing we can and should have fixed. What might have been good enough for business as usual is not good enough with the nation in crisis. The UK Govt needs to bring in the right external resources to support it in solving the current data issues. The problem is that this issue has generated many unintended associations in the public’s perception of how they are handling the crisis and it may be too late to recover the loss of confidence and trust that it needs as it tries to lead the country to a “new normal”.

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