Wales clearing data backlog of thousands of Covid cases after IT system maintenance

Authorities insist delay in publishing data has not affected individuals receiving results

Credit: Katie Collins/EMPICS Entertainment

A backlog of thousands of additional cases of coronavirus in Wales are set to be added to official figures after a delay in publication caused by maintenance work undertaken on IT systems.

Public Health Wales announced that “essential service upgrades” had been required to the NHS Welsh Laboratory Information Management System. This work took place on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 December.

As a result of this exercise, there was a delay in publishing data on the number of positive coronavirus tests across the country. Information published on the volume of cases confirmed during the 24 hours beginning at 9am on Monday 14 December included only a “very small number of results from tests processed in the Lighthouse Laboratories and therefore [represented] significant under-estimation of the true picture”.

The remainder of these results will be added to the public data beginning today and continuing over the coming days.

The latest daily data set shows 11,468 new cases – compared with a typical tally of around 2,500 over the last 10 days. 

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Public Health Wales said that the delay in publishing publicly-available data “has not affected individuals receiving their results and the contract tracing process being commenced”.

“We expect a backlog of results to come through over the coming days, and there will be a period of data reconciliation and validation that will affect our daily reporting figures for several days,” it added. “Relevant stakeholders are in receipt of interim data. The Public Health Wales public-facing data dashboard is a rapid reporting tool which is subject to correction and reconciliation. Official statistics are provided by the Office of National Statistics.”

The work that took place on the IT system in question was described by the health authority as a “major upgrade”.  

It was, according to PHW, “essential work, which had to be completed before the end of this month and had been planned months in advance”.

“NHS Wales Informatics Service has been working with the supplier and the service over the course of the weekend and this week to support the transition of this upgraded solution into normal operations as planned,” it added. “During this time, arrangements were put in place to ensure minimal disruption to the Test Trace Protect Programme, with citizens continuing to be notified of their results from the English Lighthouse Labs and citizens with positive results will have been contacted as appropriate by the contact-tracing teams.”

Once the upgrade had been completed, additional work was reportedly needed to restore “the flow of the Lighthouse Lab results into the laboratory system, which then makes the result available as part of the Digital & Health Care Record in Wales”.

“This work completed on Tuesday 15 December and the backlog of results had flowed into the WLIMS by 8am on 16 December,” Public Health Wales said.


Sam Trendall

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