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Lab wrongly reports hundreds of West Midlands coronavirus tests as positive

By Harry Leather | Sandwell | Coronavirus | Published:

Hundreds of people were wrongly reported as having tested positive for coronavirus in the Black Country due to an error in laboratory reporting.

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Black Country decreased by 10 per cent as a result of the mistake.

On Friday Public Health England reported 4,442 had tested positive for Covid-19 in the four Black Country boroughs but on Sunday the figure had gone down to 3,992.

Small print on the Government's coronavirus data website said one NHS laboratory had wrongly been reporting some negative test results as positive to Public Health England for two months.

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As a result 450 test results recorded as positive in the four Black Country boroughs have been removed from the Government's statistics, along with 261 results from Birmingham.

The patients themselves were given the correct result but the error was made when the data was sent to Public Health England.

Between Friday and Sunday the number of confirmed cases in Sandwell went down from 1,343 to 1,029, in Wolverhampton from 1,018 to 998, in Walsall from 1,133 to 1,087 and in Dudley from 948 to 878.

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Meanwhile the number of positive tests reported in Birmingham decreased from 3,492 to 3,231.

On Monday the figures for the number of positive test results in the Black Country and Birmingham increased again, by 12 for the entire region, and the Government removed the small print from its website.

The problem does not appear to have affected Staffordshire.

The note on the Government's coronavirus data dashboard said: "It has been identified that a group of test results from the previous two months, from a single NHS laboratory, were incorrectly reported to the national data-set as positive.

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"Only a small proportion (<1%) of cases has been removed from the cumulative England total, but for some areas in the West Midlands (the region affected by this data correction), the proportions of cases removed will be greater."

In England, laboratories submit test results to PHE through the Second Generation Surveillance System, an online application that stores the data in a central database.

According to the latest NHS figures released on Monday, 2,041 coronavirus patients have died in Black Country and Birmingham hospitals since the pandemic began and 319 have died in Staffordshire.

At least 527 people have also died in care homes across the Black Country, Birmingham and Staffordshire.

It is not known which laboratory was responsible for the mistaken reporting.

Dr Sue Ibbotson, director at Public Health England West Midlands, said: “Public Health England identified a coding error in recording Covid 19 test results from one NHS Trust in the West Midlands.

"No patient received an incorrect result. We have now corrected the error and adjusted our data sets accordingly.”

Harry Leather

By Harry Leather
Digital Editor - @hleather_star

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