Health chiefs mystified by Northumberland Covid stats

Health chiefs have admitted they don’t know why some parts of Northumberland were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than others.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 4:28 pm
Health experts can't explain why some parts of Northumberland were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than others.
Health experts can't explain why some parts of Northumberland were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than others.

The latest figures, calculated over the course of the whole outbreak, have shown a slight disparity between the areas worst affected and the least.

And in another head scratcher for experts, there doesn’t so far appear to be any clear link between death and infection rates.

“We’ve got a number of areas in our community where people have done less well than others and I don’t think we understand why fully,” said Dr Graham Syers, a GP and vice-chairman of Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

“We can explain it away, we can say it’s because we have more deprived backgrounds or illnesses or care homes in those patches.

“Do the parallels we see here have parallels with other reasons for inequality in Northumberland?

“Is this a good indicator of the communities we need to understand more?

“I think it’s our responsibility to take this away, understand it and do something with it.”

According to latest data, Alnwick, Cramlington Village, Croft, Hexham East and Hirst are the five county council wards with the highest number of Covid-related deaths throughout the pandemic.

Out of these areas, only Alnwick was outside the top five when the rate of deaths per 1,000 people was measured.

But when measured for the rate of Covid-19 infections per 1,000 people, all five fell down the rankings, outperformed by other areas, often with significantly lower death rates.

Bedlington West ward, for example, had a coronavirus death rate of less than one per 1,000 people, but had one of the highest infection rates – similar to the Croft ward, which had a death rate almost eight times higher.

Dr Kathryn Bush, a registrar in public health, said: “We know that some of our wards contain much higher numbers of people who are elderly and we know that those wards have seen higher death rates.

“We know that in some of our most deprived populations, where people are suffering from ill health or have multiple underlying health problems, we’ve seen higher death rates as well.

“I don’t think there’s one simple explanation for the variation, other than to say we think it reflects the age and health of the population.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service