Am I Being Unreasonable?

As the UK is coming out of lockdown, so too are we – my wife and I. Only slightly – I want to make sure that all the cards are stacked in my favour before resuming my old life.

With that in mind, we had a garden-guest around last week, a friend of my wife. I can’t remember how we got there but the conversation somehow got to post-lockdown behaviour. I said I’d be far more comfortable coming out of the house if I knew there were no cases in our local hospital.

Okay, if there are no cases it does not necessarily mean we are [i.e. the vicinity is] COVID-free, but if we did have enough COVID cases, I’m sure some of them would end up in the hospital, and counted in the statistics.

It so happens that the husband of this friend works up at the hospital. Ah, the friend says, Rob gets an email every day, telling him exactly how many current COVID cases there are. My response was simply that this kind of information should be in the public domain.

These last few days, therefore, I have spent time poking about on the web, to see if this information is, indeed, available. I couldn’t find it, so I ended up asking the hospital themselves whether they publish numbers.

This morning I received a reply. No, the numbers aren’t published because it might breach patient confidentiality.

Now, I wasn’t asking for names and addresses, just aggregate numbers. So I’m not sure how that could breach anyone’s confidentiality.

My next step? Well, the UK has a Freedom of Information law, and hospitals are public bodies, so I think my likely way forward is to put in one of these requests when I have some time. That is a pain, though, not to mention that the law gives them a month or two to respond to this request. Most likely they will sit on it until, hopefully, the pandemic is over, when this information is useful now.

I can’t help thinking it is a weird state of affairs. All around the world, people are looking for snippets of information to help them make pretty fundamental stop/go decisions, and our public health services are actively witholding this information.


  1. I can’t see how the numbers themselves breach confidentiality, but then information has been quite difficult to come by throughout this whole crisis and I’m not sure the information that is available is all that reliable. I’m now spending five days a week in an increasingly busy school on the basis that it’s supposedly safe to be there. I’ve heard from a medical professional I know that there aren’t any cases in my local hospital though, which has helped put my mind at ease, but certainly that information is not in the public domain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’d agree. Certainly at the start I got that impression, not only government but our media was not sharing the information I wanted to know. One of my early questions was how would I be treated. We got the isolation spiel but it took time to realise that isolation, mostly, was the treatment. I learned to look at foreign sites for this information but as this thing is settling down my focus is getting tighter and tighter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good, I think. Depends how big the area is, I guess. We get the numbers weekly, by county. But our county is the second bissest in England, more than 50miles from one end to the other. Our local hospital covers a smaller area, so I thought their numbers might be a better reflection.


  2. We not only get numbers every day of new positive cases, but we also get numbers of deaths in our state daily. We can also get numbers for LA County which,unfortunately, are skyrocketing. We know numbers from nursing homes, from the jails, from hospital workers, from law enforcement, from the homeless population, etc. Two weeks ago, we sadly lost the first pregnant mom and her unborn baby. I stay away from the news, but I know it is there if/when I want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s one of the things I like about the USA, that to a large extent, public means public. Here, it often feels like any information is released very grudgingly, even though they are still public services.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Done it. Sent an FoI requesting weekly updates on (a) number of tests, (b) number of positives, (c) number of discharges, (d) number of deaths. Took a bloody hour to get the paperwork just so. They have 1 month in which to respond.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Of course. The staute sets a limit for them of the end of July, although I already received an automated response that they might take longer. But even if they get back to me within the limit, I can imagine the COVID landscape will look very different in a month. I wish I had realised that there was a lack of information back in March.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That would be very interesting to know in April then, that’s true. But with the landscape changing, I don’t know if it will be of any help.
          We don’t get the figures per hospital, only per village or city.
          However we live near an home for elderly people who have cases of COVID and the neighbors of my in-laws are in quarantaine.
          It’s difficult to grasp these days. People act like it’s all over but then again it’s not.

          Liked by 1 person

          • From what I hear,we are perhaps only 1 or 2 active cases, locally. Not the whole country, obviously. At the start, all the numbers were so big, I was only looking nationally, but the numbers are sufficiently low now that I want to really narrow the focus.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Do you mean that the numbers are not accurate? or that the hospital will lie?
      I’m not so bothered if the numbers aren’t accurate, because I believe that the official numbers will be proportional to the real numbers. If the official number is zero, then I will be satisfied that there is very little in the community at large. Probably a small-enough number that I will go out.
      Given that they must have these numbers already, to allow regional/national stats to be calculated, it would actually be more effort (more expensive) for them to lie than to tell the truth.


      • There was apparently a financial incentive to finding cases of Covid-19, so there were some situations where, if a person died of a non-Covid cause but had the virus, it was being counted as a Covid-related death. (I don’t think it went as far as people who died in car accidents who had the virus being counted.) There was another situation (only in certain states) where if a person tested positive, they had to keep being tested until they tested negative, and each time they tested positive it was being registered as another case. There were some estimates that the number of actual cases, hospitalizations and deaths were overstated by anywhere from 33% to almost 50%. So there was probably a little of both, as well as plain old mistakes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The struggle is real Mr Bump. I’m finding it really difficult myself to decide what is the appropriate way forward. I guess it’s like Ethics no, what is good for you doesn’t need to be good for others? I’ve found myself grappling with this issue several times this week. I Just Don’t Know

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess we all have different factors affecting our decision, but I do feel quite strongly that the information should be out there, for those of us who want to use it.


  5. Reblogged this on Mister Bump and commented:

    I just wanted to write a very brief update on this.

    Yes, six weeks later, I had a response today. I wrote to them again, two weeks ago, to remind them that I had not yuet received a response. To be honest, I had expected them to stall – if they had wanted to publish the data, if would be public already – so it was no surprise that they were stringing this out.

    The hospital’s response was that they could not publish the data because the data does not exist.

    Think about that for a minute – a hospital does not know how many COVID tests it is carrying out. It also means that our government has no way of compiling the numbers that it has been presenting since March.

    I have to request that they review the decision, before I can take the request to the next body.

    I think I have been fobbed off throughout this adventure, what do you think?

    What staggers me most of all is that there are people out there who don’t want me to know the local picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We’re having exactly the same problem. Wanting to know, to make decisions whether we can safely go out or not. It is truly mad, not wanting to publish figures, and it makes us wonder why. You must be in the same county as us then Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another reply mentioned California…that state scares the hell out of me. I lived there 20 years and all three of our kids and five grand kids live there in the LA area. I remind them almost daily to follow the rules and be careful…not being there to “hover” over them and protect them is tough.

    Liked by 2 people

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