BLACKBURN with Darwen’s public health director is calling on NHS England to share with councils detailed local coronavirus data collected from people who contact 111 about symptoms.

Professor Dominic Harrison believes the information gathered by postcode could be ‘critical’ for local authorities planning for the next phase of the battle against Covid-19.

He is leading a campaign by council directors of public health nationwide to get the data released to them.

NHS England has been collecting postcode data on the suspected spread of the virus based on callers who ring or contact NHS111online to report Covid-19 symptoms.

Professor Harrison spoke out after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Blackburn with Darwen borough rose to 14 yesterday, up from 12 over the weekend, while the number of cases in the Lancashire County Council area was 278 (up from Sunday’s 231) and in Blackpool 18 (up from 10).

This takes the total for the whole of Lancashire to 310 confirmed cases up from 253.

There are 1,847 confirmed cases in the North West, up from 1,536,

Professor Harrison said the deaths and confirmed cases data on which councils are basing their planning on is two to three weeks behind the infections because it can take several days for an infected person to pass on the virus, then 5.5 days on average for someone to show symptoms, followed by perhaps 10 days before a person is admitted to hospital and coronavirus confirmed.

He said: “At the moment the local modelling is difficult because the data inputs are poor. The thing that would help is sharing the postcode data that NHS 111 is now collecting.

“I think this is critical information if we are to be able to map the spread of the virus and plan for future healthcare and hospitalisation.

“While the NHS 111 data is based on symptoms rather than confirmed test results, it would give an overall map of where and how the virus is spreading two or three weeks ahead of the data we have now. This information would be enormously helpful to councils and their residents. It could tell us early where hotspots and cluster are developing, even down to individual streets for we could warn people living there to take extra care. It could even help identify unknown methods of transmission.

“NHS England has this information by postcode on their system.

“At this point of the epidemic this data could make a really big difference to what we know and how we plan our local response but NHS111 don’t seem able to release it and I cannot think why.

“A key role for directors of public health is to gather data to inform local planning for a surge. Knowing that five out of 10 people on a given street had rung up NHS 111 with symptoms would help direct resources.

“NHS 111 has that data but is unable to share it with local authority directors of public health. It would give us insight into what is happening and be enormously helpful modelling the pandemic. That is the critical bit of the jigsaw – data.”

The Lancashire Telegraph contacted NHS England which was unable to provide a response yesterday.

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.