Second health board under-reported deaths in Wales

A further 31 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Wales were missed out from the country’s official statistics, the health minister has said.

A Welsh Government review into how health boards report Covid-19 deaths said Hywel Dda health board had failed to record the missing numbers to Public Health Wales (PHW).

The findings mean 115 deaths will have had to be retrospectively added to the total in Wales, with the review only ordered after it emerged 84 deaths had not been reported by Besti Cadwaladr health board.

The review document, published on Tuesday, states: “During this process further issues have been identified in relation to data being provided by Hywel Dda health board, who on April 28 confirmed that they have identified 31 retrospective deaths which should have been in scope.

“PHW has received assurances from all other health boards and trusts that reliable systems are in place for reporting deaths and there are no unreported deaths.”

At the Welsh Government’s daily press briefing, health minister Vaughan Gething claimed the error had not affected families being told their relatives had died, nor did it change the government’s understanding of the disease profile across Wales.

He said there had been inconsistent reporting methods used across the Hywel Dda health board area while there had been “challenges in communication” between Betsi Cadwaladr health board and Public Health Wales.

Mr Gething said: “We’re absolutely clear now that all of the reporting systems are consistent, everyone is going to use the same reporting method. And that should then mean that from the figures today and tomorrow we’ll be fully up to date.”

Asked by the PA news agency if the mistakes would damage public confidence in statistics released by the government, he said: “It doesn’t make any material difference to the profile of the disease or indeed the confidence the public should have about the necessity of the information we’re providing, and the measures they’re taking in adhering to the rules on social distancing

“That’s made the biggest difference in halting the progress of Covid-19 across Wales.

“We, of course, want to understand what’s happening through the time, going by the best information possible. And if there are challenges in it, we need to do exactly what we’ve done today in openly setting out what’s happened and why and the scale of it.”

Answering questions on face masks, Mr Gething said there was “no evidence” that it was harmful for members of the public to wear a form of face covering or scarf.

“If we do give formal guidance that people should wear a covering over their face, we need to understand what that means about the way the public will then behave,” he said.

“We also need to be particularly cognisant of the potential for people trying to acquire masks that would otherwise be used by health and care professionals.”

Mr Gething said he wanted to see details of the Scottish Government’s recommendation on wearing face coverings in “limited circumstances” and speak to Wales’ chief medical officer before “making a definitive comment about the position in Wales”.

After the briefing, PHW said 17 people had died after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths there to 813, with the missing 31 deaths to be added to Wednesday’s total.

A further 232 people had also tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 9,512.

Elsewhere, a chartered flight carrying 200,000 fluid-resistant gowns will arrive in Wales from Cambodia on Tuesday.

The flight is the first of two due to arrive this week to replenish supplies of gowns for NHS and social care staff in Wales.

In total, 660,000 fluid resistant gowns will be flown into Cardiff Airport from Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Hangzhou in China this week.

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