AN ELDERLY woman, who died after suffering a stroke and testing negative for coronavirus, had Covid-19 added to her death certificate, despite having no symptoms of the illness, fueling mounting fears about the accuracy of daily death statistics.
Cases like Gladys Sherringham, 91, who died in June, could be looked at during a review of daily Covid-19 death figures, after it emerged last week they include people who recovered from coronavirus then went died from another cause, in some cases weeks later.
It has led to fears that the number of deaths from Covid-19 across the UK could have been exaggerated.
QUESTIONS: Gladys died from stroke but Covid-19 was on death certificate despite testing negative
Gladys died from a stroke and tested negative for Covid-19, but Mick Toomer, who found her at home, was told it was added it to the death certificate after the consultant looked again at a lung scan and believed she saw signs of it.
Mr Toomer, 66, from Basildon, is concerned hospitals could have been adding Covid-19 to death certificates of people who tested negative, after trust bosses refused to remove Covid-19 from her death certificate when the apparent error was raised.
Gladys was admitted to Basildon Hospital after a fall.
She was found to have suffered a stroke and tested negative for Covid-19 before later dying there.
The death certificate gave her cause of death as a stroke with Covid-19 infection in supplementary part two contributary causes with cronic kidney disease and hypertension.
CONCERNED: Mick Toomer said hospital would not have Covid-19 removed from certificate (BBC/Twitter)
Mr Toomer, who was keeping an eye on the welfare of Gladys, said: "I phoned the hospital and said there had been a mistake, because she tested negative and had no Covid-19 symptoms.
"The hospital said it was not a mistake as the consultant had 'taken another look' and seen 'signs of what could have been Covid' on a lung scan.
"It made me wonder how many times has this happened? Why would hospitals benefit from higher numbers of Covid deaths? Are they able to apply for more funding based on the number of coronavirus deaths they record? That is what I am hearing from NHS workers. It needs looking into."
The hospital would not explain the specific reasoning behind Covid-19 being added.
A spokeswoman said: "In line with World Health Organisation guidance and clinical judgement, hospitals in England report the deaths of patients where there has been no COVID-19 positive test result, but where COVID-19 is documented as a direct or underlying cause of death on part one or part two of the death certification process.”
An NHS spokesman denied hospital trusts could access more funding if they recorded more coronavirus deaths.
CONCRETE EVIDENCE: Covid-19 was added to death certificate after negative test and no symptoms
There are likely to be other similar cases as the NHS website states that since April 24 it has included in the daily death figures, those who tested negative, but had Covid-19 on the death certificate as a primary or secondary factor.
Similar claims have happened in the USA, including the case of Claudia Wright, reported by the Chicago Tribune, who had Covid-19 added to the certificate after testing negative.
There have been accusations of hospitals being able to apply for more funding based on Covid-19 death numbers in the US.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a review of how death figures are calculated earlier this month after a scientific paper highlighted that people who had recovered from Covid-19 then later died from something else were included.
The anomaly was highlighted in a paper by Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, titled “Why no one can ever recover from Covid-19 in England – a statistical anomaly”.
The research said that Public Health England (PHE) cross-references its latest notifications of deaths against a database of Covid-19 positive test results, meaning that anyone who had ever tested positive for the illness would be recorded in the daily death statistics.
The report said: “Public Health England does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community.
“It’s time to fix this statistical flaw that leads to an over-exaggeration of Covid-associated deaths.”
PHE confirmed to Essex News and Investigations that daily death figures include patients who it is believed died directly from Covid-19 and all those who died from another illness, but had Covid-19 added to the death certificate as a supplementary cause, meaning the actual number of people killed by coronavirus is likely to be much lower than it appears from the daily figures.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s incident director, said: “Although it may seem straightforward, there is no WHO agreed method of counting deaths from Covid-19.
"In England, we count all those that have died who had a positive Covid-19 test at any point, to ensure our data is as complete as possible.
“We must remember that this is a new and emerging infection and there is increasing evidence of long-term health problems for some of those affected. Whilst this knowledge is growing, now is the right time to review how deaths are calculated.”
CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: David Oliver slammed those questioning Covid-19 on death certificates
Professor David Oliver, an NHS consultant physician, wrote in the Independent in May that it was perfectly reasonable to add Covid-19 to a death certificate, if they had displayed signs of the illness, even if they tested negative.
He labelled those who questioned it as conspiracy theorists.
He said: "But seriously, why on earth would doctors have any desire to exaggerate Covid-19 deaths to justify government lockdown policy or to play the numbers down to protect the government’s reputation?
"There was no crime, and no motivation. We do still have professional ethics."
However, he was referring to patients who tested negative, but had dsiplayed Covid-19-like symptoms, unlike Gladys, who had no coronavirus symptoms.
If someone you know had Covid-19 added to their death certificate after testing negative for the illness contact firstname.lastname@example.org.