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Project lead: Professor Richard Stevens

Funding: MSD

The UK media and perhaps public are now awake to the challenges of medical statistics. We are particularly concerned with the understanding of death data, which has been the source of much confusion. A single BBC graphic (reproduced here) suggests simultaneously that 67% of covid-19 deaths occur in hospital (top panel) and that 90% of covid-19 deaths occur in hospital (bottom panel), despite being produced by world-standard media professionals. We have long-standing expertise in interpreting medical statistics and can show where, between these two extremes, the truth lies. In the figure below we show that at the time of the BBC graph, 78% of deaths were in hospital, and that on the most recent data is that 83% of covid-19 deaths have been in hospital. In this proposed project we will monitor (a) covid-19 deaths, and their location and (b) all-cause deaths, relative to what would be expected for the time of year. Professional handling and reporting of this data will inform the politics and governance around lockdown, and its eventual (presumed gradual) lifting.

Figure
1 . BBC covid 19 reporting
shows that 67% of deaths are in
hospital (top) and that 90% of
deaths are in hospital (bottom) 
reproduced from BBC News
website, April 14th.