Expert coder sets up site to collate data on coronavirus deaths in care homes that government is obscuring – but your help is needed to ensure it succeeds
Expert coder Paul Forsdick, furloughed during the lock-down and dismayed at the government’s lack of transparency over the scale of coronavirus deaths in the UK’s care homes, has taken the matter into his own hands.
Forsdick has put his skills to use, with the support of his employer and a UK data provider, and has created the COVID-19 in Carehomes website to allow care-home owners, managers and employees to report the number of infections and deaths among those they care for.
Those with data to report can enter or update their figures safely, without risking their identity being disclosed – and data received will be reported by town or postcode, so the people of the UK can begin to uncover the reality that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock want to keep hidden.
Those countries in Europe that do report on deaths in care homes have found that around half of all coronavirus deaths in each country take place in care homes.
The UK government’s policy of sending even known-infected elderly patients back to care homes ill-equipped to care for them or to prevent the spread of infection among those intrinsically most vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19, means that the UK is likely to have just as great a proportion of deaths – and probably even worse.
That reality has prompted the Financial Times this week to echo the SKWAWKBOX’s warning that the real UK death toll is more than double the official figure, well over 40,000. But data are essential to verify and expose the true scale of the hidden carnage.
Forsdick, a professional coder who is on furlough from his job with Expectations Cruises, told the SKWAWKBOX:
The figures are going to cover nationwide and local information and will be available real-time, with the option to interrogate the data by postcode or town.
There’s a 10-day lag in the Office for National Statistics numbers and there are reasons for that, but when you have exponential growth going on like we appear to have in care homes, ten days is forever and the figures are never going to catch up to reality. So we’ve got to gather data fast and make it available quickly.
Explaining how he had been able to complete the programming and set up the site ready to receive data from any care home in the UK, Forsdick said:
My boss Phil Watson has been amazing, he’s an absolute legend, in spite of the impact of the pandemic on his business.
You find your care home by putting in your postcode, but we have safeguards in place and the bigger the dataset becomes, the less vulnerable it is to distortion. I’ve also got a system almost ready that will allocate a pin number to each home so that care-home managers or owners can update their numbers if they wish and we can keep the two sets of numbers in parallel.
We’ve got a database of the UK’s care homes. It was originally from the Care Quality Commission but James at [public sector data specialists] Oscar Research Limited has been brilliant – he cleaned up the data and provided us with a database that would normally cost about £2,000, absolutely free.
That database means we have the UK’s care homes by latitude and longitude as well as address.
Forsdick explained why he needs the help of politicians, media and the public, starting with SKWAWKBOX readers:
If we send out unsolicited emails to all these care homes, it’s not going to work. So we need people to start sharing the existence of the database, so people who work in or own care homes hear about it and can start to enter their data.
That can be politicians, media figures and best of all the public – sharing the existence of the site to their social networks so as many people in the care sector as possible hear about it as quickly as possible.
We know care home staff and owners are appalled at the lack of support they’re receiving from the government in spite of so many deaths, so now they’ll have a means of raising awareness of the general situation as well as their own specific circumstances.
Without their data, we can’t do anything. But with their data we can identify current and emerging hotspots and give local and national authorities the opportunity to act accordingly, for example rushing extra PPE [personal protective equipment] to areas where it’s going to be needed – instead of the balls-up they’ve made of the logistics up to now.
We can also learn so much about the spread and the speed of the outbreak – and it can also help with putting homes with outbreaks into isolation, which is going to be essential to get ahead of this epidemic.
Those kinds of decisions are not for me to make, but I can help gather the numbers and the data to give the people making the decisions the information they need.
And we can’t do that without a lot of people helping to spread the word and then those with information putting it in.
The SKWAWKBOX asks all its readers and followers to share this information urgently through their social media networks, to get the word out to those in the sector as fast and effectively as possible.
The site for reporting data is here.
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