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LGA calls for councils to get coronavirus data


Local authorities need access to a wide range of data to support coronavirus contact tracing, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

It said this will be crucial in reaching people who will not use the new NHS tracing app – currently being piloted on the Isle of Wight – and that the data should include unique property reference numbers (UPRNs) to help identify hotspots in the spread of the virus.

The LGA said that councils’ knowledge of local communities makes them well placed to help the Government ramp up the level of testing and contract tracing in the fight against the virus.

Key sources of data are likely to include: access to test results across all sites; hospitalisation records for people with Covid-19; death certifications in which the disease is identified; NHS 111 symptomatic data by postcode; all GP or primary care and out of hours data linked to Covid-19; all-cause mortality figures from the Office of National Statistics by local authority and postcode if possible; and personal details of contacts, including information such as race, ethnicity and gender, along with contact details.

Other sources include: information from care homes on Covid-19 cases and death; from home care providers on cases and details of who they are supporting; complete lists of shielded people together the GP lists of those eligible for flu jabs; and lists of assumptions used to generate the testing and tracing models.

Common identifier

The UPRN identifies a property and makes it possible to identify the relevant connections between different datasets. The LGA said this would make it possible to link the data to fill important gaps in information, helping to identify where the virus is prevalent and develop a plan of action.

It said it expects the UPRN to soon be attached to all new data sources from central government, but in the meantime councils should be given access to the data it has identified.

Last month the Government announced that UPRNs and unique street reference numbers (USRNs) are to become the core addressing identifiers for the public sector under the new Public Sector Geospatial Agreement. The Open Standards Board has mandated that UPRNs and USRNs should be used by government in referencing and sharing information about properties and streets.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils want to play their full part in the national effort to defeat this disease, but they cannot do so without having all the information they need.

“Environmental health, trading standards, public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses are just some of the services which have unparalleled skills, knowledge and experience on the ground, to support the Government’s test, track and trace system.

“Covid-19 is best understood as a pattern of local outbreaks, rather than a national pandemic with a similar impact in every community. To help councils understand where the outbreaks are happening and be able to act quickly to contain them, government needs to share vital and up-to-date data with them alongside other agencies.

“While the expected nationwide roll out of the NHS Covid-19 app will be useful, there are some areas in different communities where an app simply cannot reach. This is where councils can step in and make the most of their role as local public health leaders, but they need all the tools at their disposal to help do so.”

Image from Muenocchio, public domain

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