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RCN condemns sickness and death data ‘failure’

The failure to properly track sickness and death from Covid-19 in healthcare workers means ministers are making decisions without enough information, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

The representative body has called on the Department of Health and Social Care to start collecting UK-wide data on healthcare staff who contract coronavirus.

Currently, each country in the UK takes a different approach to recording deaths and infection rates – but the RCN thinks they should work more closely to allow for ‘robust data analysis’.

In an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair wrote: ‘There is still no UK wide public reporting of the number of Covid-19 deaths or infection rates amongst the health and care workforce.

‘This is despite repeated calls by the Royal College of Nursing for this data to be made available,’ she said.

At minimum, the data should include workers who have tested positive for Covid-19, been admitted to hospital or intensive care for Covid-19, or who have died after testing positive, she added.

Additional information including ethnicity, nationality and underlying health conditions should also be collected to help address inequalities.

There is increasing concern that black, Asian and minority ethnic staff are facing a more significant risk of both infection and of death. 

Dame Donna added that the loss of any healthcare staff member is ‘a tragedy which deserves public recognition’.

She continued: ‘We must have better record-keeping of the number of health and care staff who have died.’

Earlier this week, RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair warned that nurses must have adequate personal protective equipment and testing before the lockdown is scaled back any further.

In addition, it was revealed that social care staff have twice the coronavirus mortality rate as others of the same age and sex.

Last week, care home directors told Nursing in Practice that adult social care has not yet faced the peak of coronavirus infections after Covid-19 deaths in care homes nearly doubled in a week.