Wallpaper…

Wallpaper... NHS_Training_in_Primary_Care_General_Practice

If you see something often enough, you end up not seeing it.

It’s a bit like the piece of wallpaper peeling off, in the hallway, by the front door.

You pass it so often, you don’t see it but as soon as the other half’s mother turns up, it’s the first thing they comment on… ‘the hallway could do with redecorating’.

It’s a common management failing.  If you don’t jump on a problem the moment is appears, the chances are, as the days and weeks go by, you’ll become blind to it.

I think there is a similar sort of thing happening with the Number 10 daily news palaver.  

We watch it so often.  Mind-numbing.  Numbers, whizz by.  They’ve become the wallpaper.

Monday, No18 was chief preacher.  Announced the daily number for deaths as 111.

Now, forgive me if I appear to be commoditising or being casual about deaths, or disrespectful, that is not my purpose.  Each death is the loss of someone who was special to someone.  But…

… here’s the problem.  Sunday’s slide said there were 38,489 cumulative deaths.  Monday, No18 said there were 39,045.   

Whips out calculator and discovers… the increase is 556, not 111.  

Errr… we’ve ”lost 445 deaths.  

It’s important because each one is a person.  It is important because the deaths combine into the rolling average which informs the R number and decisions about lockdown… or un-lockdown.

If the daily deaths look better, the public are less likely to be worried about relaxing lockdown.  Add-in the missing deaths and the rolling average, curve changes and may have an uptick.

In slides that are annexed to the daily numbers there is a note that says; 

‘The cumulative totals for deaths have been revised to include an additional 445 deaths in England… from the period 24th April to 31st May’.

No reason given.

Maybe there’s a straightforward answer to this?  The ONS numbers run a couple of weeks behind, to allow for people to get a death certificate and register a death.  I believe PHE collect deaths based around testing, the DH+ are involved somehow or other.  The Uni’s ‘do’ numbers.  Everyone has a go.

There is no denying, lower numbers go a long way to supporting the ‘small and cautious’ easing of lockdown.

Maybe there’s a good technical reason but given the Cummings affair and the lack of trust that I detect, building in the minds of the public, we can all be forgiven for being suspicious of HMG.

It was also strange that the misleading numbers were presented by No18, and not, as is usual, by one of the head-honcho scientist, medical-boffin people.  A big departure and might lead conspiracy-ists to the conclusion; the boffins knew the numbers were dodgy and wouldn’t present them…

It’s worth pointing out, No18 presented the numbers with no reference to the adjustment.

Statistical adjustment, unannounced deaths, obfuscations, conspiracy, misdirection, a pack of lies?  Take your pick.  Sloppy collation, poor system management, lack of focus on what’s important?  Your call.

The UK stats authority isn’t pleased!

Deaths, excess deaths, tests, drive-in, mailed out but not mailed back, anti-body tests, R numbers… an undergrowth of data for authorities to hide in. 

Building a data pile doesn’t build trust. 

Businesses know the importance of sharing correct data.  Silence or misinformation fosters gossip and generally, it’s never good and always leaves a mark.

There is an acronym, from the world of computing; SVOT… standing for; the Single Version Of the Truth.

Meaning; a single repository for data, ensuring its integrity at any given point in time.  Inaccurate data, asymmetric data, out-of-date data leads to mistakes, interpretation that can be squeezed, skewed or downright fiddled.

A single version of the truth, transparent and accessible.  People can then make-up their own mind about its relevance.  

Do the numbers tell me it’s safe to go out, send the kids to school, open a business, visit granny, have a tryst.  We need to see the single version of the truth; correct numbers and make up our own minds.

Once we do, we can work together to make decisions at a national, regional and local level.  Use data to re-build our lives and lifestyles, instead of using it to wallpaper over the cracks.

News and Comment from Roy Lilley
Contact Roy – please use this e-address roy.lilley@nhsmanagers.net
Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Roy Lilley.