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FactCheck: No, it is not true that only people with pre-existing conditions have died from Covid-19 in the UK

A post on social media has falsely claimed that the NHS confirmed no Covid-19 deaths occurred among people without a pre-existing condition.

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A CLAIM BEING shared on social media in Ireland has suggested that no-one without a pre-existing condition has died from Covid-19 in the UK.

The post claims that the National Health Service (NHS) confirmed that of the people who have died in the UK from Covid-19, there were none who did not have a pre-existing condition. 

However, the post uses misleading information that relates to one small and specific trust within the NHS, as opposed to England or the UK as a whole.

The Claim

A post from an Irish Facebook page that was uploaded on 13 December has shared an image of a letter responding to a Freedom of Information request to an NHS trust in England called Mersey Care, which is located in the north east near Liverpool.

The image has been shared with the caption: “Freedom Of Information Request To The NHS reveals that NO ONE Without Any Preexisting Medical Conditions Has Died From #COVID19.”

The request to Mersey Care shown in the letter asks how many people have died from Covid-19 without any pre-existing medical conditions, and “none” listed as a response.

Mersey Care Facebook Claim

The post has since been re-shared to a number of other popular Facebook pages in Ireland.

A second letter that has been shared widely on social media gives Mersey Care’s response to a request for the number of deaths in the trust due to Covid-19, with five listed as a response.

“All [five] patients that passed away had pre-existing conditions,” the letter says.

Mersey Care Fact Check Five

The Evidence

Mersey Care

The NHS has not said that no one without a pre-existing condition has died from Covid-19 in the UK, in contrast to the claim made on social media.

The NHS records official figures on Covid-19 deaths, which include people who have died that did not have a pre-existing condition.

In England, 1,854 people who did not have a pre-existing condition have died from Covid-19 up to 9 December.

Mersey Care is one of 223 NHS trusts in England. A trust is used by the NHS to serve a particular location or function. 

Mersey Care specialises in mental health, learning disabilities, addiction, brain injuries and physical health. 

Its intensive care unit is for psychiatric patients who are suffering with mental health illnesses, as opposed to an ICU for patients suffering with diseases like Covid-19.

Since March, Mersey Care has recorded five Covid-19 deaths, one on each of the following dates: 19 April, 21 April, 24 April, 27 October, and 15 November.

The official figures on Covid-19 deaths from each trust are publicly available from the NHS. 

They are viewable in the spreadsheet labelled “Covid-19 total announced deaths”, which is updated daily, under the “deaths by trust” tab.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Mersey Care trust said that it “provides adult specialist mental health, addiction, learning disability and community health services”.

The trust confirmed that the two letters were sent by its Freedom of Information team.

However, it said that the “Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust can only provide the information for this trust”.

“This information is already in the public domain,” the spokesperson said. 

“The information provided in the letter of response relates to patients in our Trust (Mersey Care) and does not represent figures for the whole of Liverpool or Merseyside.”

The figures

The NHS publicly shares statistics on the number of people with and without a pre-existing condition who die with Covid-19.

As of 9 December, a total of 43,537 people have died in hospitals in England who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Among those people who have died, 41,683 had a pre-existing condition and 1,854 did not.

Six of the people who died with Covid-19 in a hospital in England and had no pre-existing were 19 years old or younger, while 42 were between the ages of 20 and 39.

326 were in the 40 to 59 age category; 769 were aged between 60 and 79; and 711 were 80 years old or older. 

UK deaths preexisting condition Source: NHS

The Office for National Statistics characterises a pre-existing condition as a health condition that came prior to another disease in the sequence of events before a person’s death, or a condition that was a contributory factor in the person’s death but was “not part of the causal sequence”.

In Scotland, among people whose death involved Covid-19 up to the end of November, 416 had no pre-existing condition.

Between 1 March and 30 November, 5,822 deaths involving Covid-19 have been recorded in Scotland.

7% – 416 people – did not have any pre-existing condition.

Public data from Scotland details the five most common conditions associated with the people who died with Covid-19.

Of the people who have died in Scotland with Covid-19, 4% had diabetes, 6% had cerebrovascular disease (which can include conditions such as a stroke, coronary heart disease, or peripheral arterial disease), and 11% had chronic lower respiratory diseases.

14% of the people who died with Covid-19 had ischaemic heart diseases and 28% had dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Ireland

In Ireland, the total number of people who have died with Covid-19 up to midnight on 14 December is 2,140.

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The number of people who have died with Covid-19 with an underlying clinical condition is 1,989, or 92.94%, meaning that 7.06% did not have an underlying condition.

People who have died with Covid-19 in Ireland have ranged in age from 17 to 105.

The median age of people who have died is 83, and the mean age is 81.

Ireland Covid-19 deaths up to 14 December Source: HPSC

According to the Central Statistics Office, 32% of people in Ireland age 15 or older have a long standing illness or health condition.

Long-term conditions include a range of health concerns, including diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart conditions, stroke, asthma, chronic kidney disease, vascular disease and degenerative eye disease.

They also include conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, epilepsy, depression, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure.

The CSO’s latest figures on Covid-19 deaths and cases up to 27 November found that chronic heart disease was the most common underlying condition in Covid-19 deaths, present in 736 people who died.

A chronic neurological disease, which can include diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s was the second most frequent, present in 584 people who died, followed by hypertension (high blood pressure) among 337 people.

322 people who died with Covid-19 had a chronic respiratory disease, 283 had cancer, 273 had diabetes, 36 had a BMI of 40 or more, and 34 had chronic liver disease.

The HSE previously told TheJournal.ie that “those with underlying medical conditions who have died from Covid-19 may have continued to live for a long time if they had not contracted it”.

“It is important to note that a third of people in Ireland (32%) have a long-standing health condition. This is a significant part of our society,” the HSE said.

“Every single person with an underlying medical condition is important. Their lives matter.”

The counting of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland has followed international guidance from organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

TheJournal.ie has previously given a deep-dive into how Covid-19 deaths are counted in Ireland.

The Verdict

Five people have died with Covid-19 in the Mersey Care trust since March.

The trust specialises in services such as mental health, addiction, and learning disabilities, and its intensive care unit is for psychiatric patients.

Overall, a total of 43,537 people have died in hospitals in England who had tested positive for Covid-19, of whom 41,683 had a pre-existing condition and 1,854 did not.

Similarly, in Ireland, 2,140 have died with Covid-19 up to mid-December. 92.94% of those people had an underlying clinical condition, while 7.06% did not.

We rate the claim that no one without a pre-existing condition had died from Covid-19 in the UK: FALSE.

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate. 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here. 

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