Thank you for your email of 04.05.2020 concerning our mortality and COVID-19 statistics.
You asked a number of questions concerning the reporting of deaths. Our mortality statistics are based on information recorded when deaths are certified and registered. Deaths are certified by a medical practitioner or a coroner, and registered by the Registrar for Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The information recorded includes: birth details, occupation, the cause of death, when and where the person died, a description and residence of the informant and when the death was registered. Hence, we are able to distinguish where deaths take place and the cause. For more information concerning the construction of ONS mortality statistics, please refer to our ONS User Guide to Mortality statistics and this link provides more details concerning how we report deaths involving COVID-19. With regards to the location/place of death, section 5 of our Mortality Statistics User Guide: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/methodologies/userguidetomortalitystatisticsjuly2017#information-collected-at-death-registration outlines how the different places of death are grouped within our statistics.
Lastly, you queried the accuracy of our statistics. This publication Mortality Statistics in England and Wales Methodology QMI provides more details concerning our methodology.
Furthermore, you may find it reassuring to know that details of deaths are received from register offices electronically. Routine and automated checks are carried out on each file and the combined data are then loaded on to the deaths database. Regular receipt and diagnostic reports are produced, resulting in weekly contacts with the identified registrars to resolve any problems. All deaths accepted onto the database that need routine coding are identified and coded as required by the Life Events Processing Branch (LEP). Routine automated and manual checks of cause of death data are carried out on all records.
In addition, we have numerous checks in place to ensure the validity of the data. The first of these are carried out as a final check of what is held on the deaths database before an annual extract of data is taken. These comprise frequency checks for a range of fields, covering age, sex, underlying cause and area of residence. Also checked are possibly incorrect combinations of fields. Any apparent errors or inconsistencies result in checks of individual cases by coders who make amendments, as required. Further examinations are carried out once the data extract has been taken. After the annual extract used for mortality analyses has been produced, a further set of frequency counts and two-way tables are prepared to ensure that no new errors have been introduced.
We are therefore confident that our statistics are accurate.
Lastly, here at the Office for National Statistics, we take great pride in our work which is in in strict adherence to the Code for Civil Service and its core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. If you should have any reason to believe otherwise, then please contact us.
On behalf of Fiona Dawe, Health Analysis and Life Events
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