NHS Trust ‘leak’ suggests doctors ‘gently discouraged’ from listing all Covid-19 deaths

"There is no requirement to write COVID 19," the leaked guidance appears to show.

A campaigning legal group say have published what they say is leaked guidance from an NHS hospital trust, that reveals doctors are being told they are not required to put COVID-19 on death certificates.

The Good Law Project say the guidance suggests doctors are being ‘gently discouraged’ from reporting deaths as COVID-19. That would mean “we have no way of knowing if the government figures on deaths from coronavirus – the daily in hospital figures as well as the weekly ONS figures – are accurate,” the group said in an email to supporters.

The leaked guidance from an NHS Hospital Trust says: “Doctors are asked to use the standard MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) form to certify death. ‘Pneumonia ‘or ‘community acquired pneumonia’ are acceptable at 1(a) on the MCCD.

There is no requirement to write COVID 19 as part of the MCCD. It may be mentioned at 1(b) on the form, should the doctor wish.”

The guidance – seen by Left Foot Forward and titled ‘Guidance for death certification of proven Covid 19 patients during the current pandemic’ – was reportedly sent to staff on 2nd April but was published on Thursday.

The Good Law Project say that if the guidance is in force, it is ‘inaccurate, misleading and unlawful’. They have instructed lawyers to write to the NHS hospital trust, asking them to clarify the guidance urgently. If they don’t hear back properly by the 21st April, the group say they will lodge a judicial review.

Jo Maugham QC told LFF: “Affected families, those designing trace and track apps, those handling the bodies of the deceased: they all need to know what the proper cause of death was, quite apart from questions around accountability.”

The Good Law Project are calling on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to take ‘urgent action’ to ensure all suspected deaths from COVID-19 are recorded properly.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward.

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