Covid Scotland: Government accused of 'unclear information' over delay in publishing hospitalisation data

The Scottish Government has been accused of providing “unclear information” after it emerged that an update on Covid hospitalisation figures promised on Wednesday will not be released for a further two days.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said on Tuesday that Public Health Scotland would publish fresh information around hospitalisations “because of” as opposed to “with” Covid the following day.

But Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Wednesday that this will not be released until Friday, as Public Health Scotland is still working on the analysis following public holidays over the new year.

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The First Minister also warned politicians not to “put too much store” on the distinction between the two measures.

Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Hospitalisations “with” Covid include patients admitted to hospital who test positive for the virus, regardless of whether they are being treated for something else.

Hospitalisations “because of” Covid estimate the proportion of these cases for whom Covid was the primary reason of their admission to hospital.

The most recent figures available from Public Health Scotland date from August.

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Scottish Labour accused the government of being “unclear”.

"We all agree that we must confront and challenge disinformation online – it undermines public health messaging - but that isn’t helped by the government providing unclear information,” said leader Anas Sarwar.

"There is clearly a difference between being in hospital or in intensive care with Covid and being in hospital or intensive care because of Covid – especially if there is an outbreak in a hospital.

"That information is important to maintain public confidence in the decisions being taken and why - so the delay in this data being released, after weeks of requests for it, is disappointing.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the publication of the figures was “essential”.

“John Swinney said data from Public Health Scotland would be published today, but the First Minister has now said that will be Friday,” he said.

“This is vital information on hospitalisations because of Covid and hospitalisations because people are unvaccinated.

“It's information that's essential for the public to know why they're being asked to put up with restrictions on their lives.

“It makes it difficult for anyone to judge the Covid situation properly when the First Minister has information that the public does not.”

Ms Sturgeon said the data is “important” and Public Health Scotland is working to produce “robust” analysis.

But she warned MSPs not to “overstate” the distinction.

“That's important information to know, that's why we're doing that work carefully,” she said.

“But it's also important not to put too much store on that… just because somebody with Covid is in hospital for another reason doesn't take away the impact of Covid, because the fact they have Covid means that there has to be special infection control measures around that patient in terms of distancing and other things that apply.

“That reduces the capacity of the health service, and increases the pressure.”

A spokesperson for Public Health Scotland said: “As part of our continuous review of reporting, PHS continue to undertake work to ensure we provide the most accurate and timely information.

"PHS hope to include more information on hospitalisations 'with' and 'because of' Covid-19 in our next Weekly Covid-19 statistical report, scheduled to publish on Friday 7 January.”

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