Health Minister misleads fellow MLA on the true scale of the excess deaths in Northern Ireland

‘One death from Covid is a death too many.’

We’ve all heard it. It was used time and time again to guilt people in to staying at home, testing themselves at every end and turn and even taking a new ‘vaccine’. Northern Ireland’s own Health Minister is even on record as saying a cancer patient would be turned away from a hospital to make way for a Covid patient.

Yet now, when Northern Ireland is experiencing excess deaths, which aren’t Covid related, Mr Swann has tried to shy away from the issue and imply that – it’s ok, we’re not as bad as England and Wales.

DUP MLA, Paul Frew, shared a response to a question he had raised to query the excess deaths occurring in Northern Ireland and whether this required an investigation:

Mr Swann’s response:

According to the NISRA statistics, between w/e 4 March 2022 and w/e 1 July 2022 there were 5,769 deaths registered in Northern Ireland. This is an increase of 262 (or 4.5%) against the five-year average of deaths registered for the same period.

This is a significantly smaller increase than reported in England and Wales.

Robin Swann – 22/07/2022

Twitter user Alan Alannis (@GoingNomadUK), having seen the above response to Mr Frew started to dig a little deeper into the ONS and NISRA data, and identified a clear anomaly in the figures provided by Mr Swann and was kind enough to share his quality analysis with us.

It would be fair to say that Mr Swann would also have had access to all of the information Alan reviewed before he responded to Mr Frew.

For info: England and Wales death data is captured by the ONS. Northern Ireland by NISRA.

The ONS state on their website ‘For excess deaths, we compare numbers and rates with a five-year average; this ensures that we are comparing like for like in terms of life expectancy, advances in healthcare, population size and age structure. Averaging over five years removes the fluctuations seen year-on-year. Usually, we use the most recent five years, for example we compared deaths in 2020 with the five-year average for 2015 to 2019.

2020 saw the second highest number of deaths since 1838 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If we were to use this within our five-year average, then the number of deaths in the five-year average would be higher and we wouldn’t be comparing to a “normal” (non-pandemic) year.

The further we move away from 2019, the less robust the 2015 to 2019 five-year average becomes. The decision was made for 2022 to move to an average of the following five years: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. This moves our five-year average along by a year but does not include the exceptionally high number of deaths seen in 2020.’

Essentially, the ONS are removing 2020, the ‘pandemic year’ from their 5 year average calculations because to include it means the number of deaths in the 5 year average is higher than normal and therefore not a true comparison for a ‘normal’ year.

In Northern Ireland, NISRA are using the five-year average of 2017 to 2021 which includes the pandemic year and does not align to the method used by ONS.

Straight away we can see that the comparison used by Mr Swann is incorrect as when making a direct comparison it is important to ensure that both sets of data are calculated in the same way, using the same methods, and therefore is like-for-like.

When calculated using the ONS method detailed above, for the period quoted in Mr Swann’s response, in which he states that there has been a 4.5% increase in excess deaths which is ‘a significantly smaller increase than reported in England and Wales.’ We can see from the table below that the number of deaths registered in Northern Ireland has increased by 8.85% when compared to the average. Northern Ireland currently has a higher level of excess deaths than England and Wales, and nearly double what was quoted to an official response to a fellow MLA.

SOurces: ONS Weekly deaths & NISRA WEEKLY DEATHS

And for 2022, year to date, Northern Ireland’s excess deaths rate is higher than England and Wales as well:

SOurces: ONS Weekly deaths & NISRA WEEKLY DEATHS

Has Mr Swann, as Health Minister for Northern Ireland, provided incorrect information to Mr Frew in a bid to make the situation in Northern Ireland appear less serious? Or, does he not understand how to analyse data?

It is interesting to note that NISRA also include a column to match the ONS method in the same table. Mr Swann didn’t even need to go to the effort to gather and analyse the data – It was already done for him, and is there for him to see.

Whilst we are clear how ONS and NISRA are calculating excess deaths – that is not to say we agree with the methods being used.

ONS are including 2021 as part of their 5-year average which suggests they consider this to be a ‘normal’ non pandemic year, which is difficult to understand how when looking at their own statistics. The ONS recorded 76,094 Covid related deaths in 2021, and 80,830 in 2020. Yet 2020 was considered a pandemic year and 2021 was not.

In 2020, the total number of deaths for the year recorded by ONS is 614,114 (15.62% excess deaths), and in 2021, 585,899 is recorded (10.31% Excess Deaths), against the five-year average (2015-2019) of 531,129. The statistics therefore show 2021 was not a normal year.

In Northern Ireland we have reported previously that hospital admission levels in 2020 were reduced by 28.4% across all programmes of care. In 2021 there was still a 14.9% reduction when compared to the year prior to the pandemic (March 2019 – March 2020). Further evidence that 2021 should not be considered a normal year when calculating excess deaths.

It is our view that the more accurate calculation would be to compare the 5 year average period of 2015 – 2019. Using this method and the same period as quoted by Mr Swann we can see in the table below that Northern Ireland has increased by 7.87% which is still higher than England and Wales.

Regardless of which method is used to calculate excess deaths, Robin Swann, the Northern Ireland Health Minister, is misrepresenting the Northern Ireland position on excess deaths. Northern Ireland is HIGHER than England and Wales.

Despite being asked if Mr Swann was minded to conduct an investigation into the level of excess deaths in Northern Ireland, Mr Swann failed to commit to such an investigation but instead quoted misleading data which may imply such an investigation was not necessary. What should be of further concern to the Northern Ireland Health Minister is the spike in excess deaths in more recent weeks. The chart below shows several weeks where excess deaths exceed 20% with week 29 peaking at 28.5%.

2022 Excess death % against 5-year average (2015-2019)

During the ‘pandemic years’ the Health Minister and his advisors were very keen to highlight the number of deaths ‘within 28 days of a positive test’ and any associated excess death statistics to encourage compliance with non-scientific and unjustified restrictions.

Northern Ireland now has significant levels of excess deaths but as they are non-covid related the Health Minister does not consider this worthy of an investigation instead he has provided misleading figures in a bid to conceal the severity of the issue.

Now we have corrected Robin Swann’s misunderstanding of the excess death situation here in Northern Ireland, will this prompt him to take a closer look at this matter and investigate?

Watch this space.