Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Data Briefing

What is happening to non-covid deaths?

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 24 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1607

Read our latest coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. John Appleby, director of research and chief economist
  1. Nuffield Trust, London, UK
  1. john.appleby{at}

John Appleby unpicks the data on deaths from causes other than covid-19

Concerns are being raised that one possible consequence of efforts to contain covid-19 could be an increase in deaths from other causes. It’s still relatively early in the spread of the pandemic. There will be lags in the reporting of deaths, as well as issues around attributing the causes of death. But could this concern be real?

One problem may be that people may not seek care from the NHS, perhaps because they fear contracting covid-19 or they don’t want to burden the NHS at a time when the service is under pressure. An indicator of this is the March data for the numbers of attendances at emergency departments and for all emergency admissions in England. These show a big fall from 2019 to 2020: attendances dropped by 29% and emergency admissions by 23% (fig 1).1

Fig 1

Attendances at emergency departments and total emergency admissions in England, March figures, 2011–201

What we don’t know of course—at least not yet—is who has stayed away and what happened to them. Many, …

View Full Text