‘Excess deaths’ in Northumberland lower than expected

‘Unpopular’ measures brought in to try and curb the coronavirus pandemic have paid off, according to county bosses.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 3:25 pm
Updated Friday, 15th October 2021, 3:33 pm
Excess death figures are lower than expected during the pandemic in Northumberland.
Excess death figures are lower than expected during the pandemic in Northumberland.

Latest figures for the number of ‘excess deaths’ in Northumberland over the course of the health emergency have fallen significantly lower than many health chiefs expected.

And for decision-makers who came under fire for moves such as mandatory masks or limits on services, the numbers have brought vindication.

“About a year ago, I became leader and we had to make some really difficult decisions which were politically unpopular, like joining up with the LA7 [group of North East councils] to share resources and expertise,” said Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

“Some parts of the county were very reluctant, very cynical, about the need for social distancing, for the measures that we brought in.

“I received some really nasty emails about how ridiculous this all was and how stupid we were being.

“[But] I felt we were doing the right thing then and I’m absolutely sure we did do the right thing – this could have been a lot worse and it’s right we took those measures.”

According to a report prepared for the council’s health and wellbeing board, Northumberland has so far seen 365 ‘excess deaths’ over the course of the pandemic.

The figure is based on an expected total of 6,273 for the period, calculated on data from 2015-19, against an actual number of 6,638.

Last year, Cllr Sanderson faced calls from some opposition county councillors to break away from the North East’s LA7 group of local authorities and lobby for special rules for Northumberland, recognising its rural populations and, at the time, low infection rates compared to the rest of the region.

Dr Kathryn Bush, a registrar in public health, said: “[Excess deaths] would include people who, during the peak of the pandemic, were unable to access healthcare for other conditions and unfortunately died as a result.

“However, [excess deaths] recognises that at some points we might have seen less deaths than we expected.

“Things like the social distancing and other measures put in place meant that we had less flu and so less flu deaths than expected.

“The total number of excess deaths in Northumberland throughout the pandemic is a lot lower than we expected at the beginning of the pandemic.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service